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trusting others, trusting god Trusting Others, Trusting God is an investigation of the concepts of moral and religious trust. The question of why or how it is rational to trust anyone has been the typical focus of philosophers, with an underlying assumption that trust must be justified. In most cases, trust (even – or perhaps especially – religious trust) is portrayed as irrational. Sheela Pawar argues that a grammatical investigation of the concept of trust can help rectify this mistreatment.
ASHGATE NEW CRITICAL THINKING IN RELIGION, THEOLOGY AND BIBLICAL STUDIES The Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies series brings high quality research monograph publishing back into focus for authors, international libraries, and student, academic and research readers. Headed by an international editorial advisory board of acclaimed scholars spanning the breadth of religious studies, theology and biblical studies, this openended monograph series presents cutting-edge research from both established and new authors in the field. With specialist focus yet clear contextual presentation of contemporary research, books in the series take research into important new directions and open the field to new critical debate within the discipline, in areas of related study, and in key areas for contemporary society. Other Recently Published Titles in the Series: Reading Anselm’s Proslogion The History of Anselm’s Argument and its Significance Today Ian Logan Jürgen Moltmann’s Ethics of Hope Eschatological Possibilities For Moral Action Timothy Harvie Phenomenology and Eschatology Not Yet in the Now Edited by Neal DeRoo and John Panteleimon Manoussakis The Identity of Christian Morality Ann Marie Mealey Evagrius Ponticus The Making of a Gnostic Julia Konstantinovsky Exodus Church and Civil Society Public Theology and Social Theory in the Work of Jürgen Moltmann Scott R. Paeth Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance Myk Habets
Trusting Others, Trusting God Concepts of Belief, Faith and Rationality
sheela Pawar California State University, USA
© Sheela Pawar 2009 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Sheela Pawar has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company Wey Court East Suite 420 Union Road 101 Cherry Street Farnham Burlington Surrey, GU9 7PT VT 05401-4405 England USA www.ashgate.com British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Pawar, Sheela. Trusting others, trusting God : concepts of belief, faith and rationality. – (Ashgate new critical thinking in religion, theology and biblical studies) 1. Trust—Religious aspects—Christianity. 2. Trust in God. I. Title II. Series 241.6’7-dc22 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Pawar, Sheela, 1965– Trusting others, trusting God : concepts of belief, faith, and rationality / Sheela Pawar. p. cm. — (New critical thinking in religion, theology, and biblical studies) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7546-4052-3 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Trust. 2. Trust—Religious aspects. 3. Faith. I. Title. BJ1500.T78P39 2009 170’.42—dc22 2009017749 ISBN: 9780754640523 (hbk) ISBN: 9780754697411 (ebk.V)
For my husband
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Contents Preface 1 2 3 4 5 6
Trust, Rationality, and Utility Religious Trust and Utility Trusting Others: Suspicion Trust and Primitive Reactions Faith Secular Trust
ix 1 23 43 81 111 143 165 167
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Preface This project is an attempt to appreciate what we mean when we use the word ‘trust’ and the ways various philosophers have understood trust and its relation to both morality and faith. The reader will not find a definition of trust here. I do not believe we need a definition of trust, first because we are already capable of identifying trust relationships, and second because definitions of trust obscure various employments of the term. I begin by examining Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, which depicts trust as a necessary precondition for the existence of human society. Hobbes believed that it is both rational and necessary to trust others in order to bring about civil cohesion, since the creation of society requires a social covenant that restricts the rights of individuals and establishes a sovereign. Society, however, requires more than the bond of trust between citizens; fear of sanctions, a natural human inclination, is also necessary in order to secure peace. Self-interest, moderated by fear, makes trust rational, and trust is rational when it is instrumental to self-interest. Trust based on utility and self-interest, however, limits our understanding of human trust relationships. In Hobbes’ commonwealth, trust is merely predictive, and morality’s purpose is to secure social conditions leading to human flourishing. Hobbes leaves no room for normative trust; in other words, trust that the other will do the right thing. On Hobbes’ description, it is always reasonable to assume that others will break their promises when they can get away with it. Hobbes leaves us with a deficient understanding of human trust. He also believed that God’s absolute power is the rational basis for trust in God, and this is the topic I turn to in the second chapter. Even if you might get away with breaking your promise today, you will ultimately be punished since no one can escape Divine punishment, therefore, it pays to be good. Phillipa Foot and Peter Geach have both argued in a similar fashion. Foot and Geach both retain an instrumentalist account of trust. Obedience to God is prudent; it is the best plan of action if one wants the rewards. The problem with these accounts is that it does not properly describe religious faith; it depicts religious belief as motivated by sheer power, reduces faith to prudence and precludes the idea of mercy. Annette Baier has produced an impressive body of work on the concept of trust, which she uses as the basis for her moral theory. Baier examines some of the limits of the contract model of trust, and redefines trust in terms of an expectation of another’s good will. Baier’s account, however, preserves some vestiges of instrumentalism; this proves problematic, and does not adequately distinguish between trust and mere reliance. Some of the confusions here are brought out in Olli Lagerspetz’s work on various problems with the language of trust. As Lagerspetz notes, the language of trust has its place where there is suspicion and
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doubt. Like Wittgenstein’s example of ‘certainty’, ‘trust’ is a concept that is empty of content; trying to give a positive account of the concept forces one back into the language of mistrust and risk. Once we specify what we entrust to another, we begin to erode trust. The debate between Lagerspetz and Baier brings out the distinction between unreflective trust and consciously decided trust. Because Baier is concerned with when it is rational to trust another, she believes that unconscious trust is inferior to conscious trust, while Lagerspetz argues that unconscious trust is logically prior to conscious decision. Baier wants to ground trust in the natural conditions of the human, since trust must be present in order for trust to grow and increase. She suggests that trust is a natural virtue since trust and cooperation are necessary in speaking a language. Peter Winch has also argued that truth-telling is a moral norm in all human societies. However, both philosophers miss the point that the type of cooperation necessary for speaking a language is not a moral form of cooperation. Describing language in terms that are inherently moral obscures the form of cooperation that is present in language. Whether or not there is some primitive form of trust at work in our mutual cooperation is the subject of the fourth chapter. Here I explore Lars Hertzberg’s idea of an attitude of trust as necessary for learning but prior to judgment, that is, ‘trust in’ another as distinguished from mere reliance. While Hertzberg enables us to avoid the pratfalls of trust conceived as reliance, he gives this trust a moral dimension, but our most basic forms of cooperation do not have this moral character. Is trust basic to our general understanding of a human being? While our general concept of the human includes the idea that others have their own inner lives with thoughts and feelings similar to our own and that we belong to a common kind, this is not enough to secure moral responses to other human beings. In Chapter 5 I explore the charge that religious trust is childish. Trust in God differs from other forms of trust because we cannot know God exhaustively and because we cannot misplace our trust in God. However, trusting God, for the Christian, is expressed in the command to love one’s neighbor. I turn to Kierkegaard’s Works of Love to examine the idea that trust in one’s neighbor is neither infantile nor irrational. Kierkegaard grounds the idea of love of neighbor in a ‘common mark’ that all human beings share. Kierkegaard insists that we do not believe on the basis of knowledge, but rather, using the same knowledge and evidence believers and nonbelievers come to different conclusions because of a ‘prior decision’ to trust or to distrust. The believer weighs the same evidence, but ‘can never be deceived’. While the common idea of love is one of mutual exchange, religious love does not expect something in return. Kierkegaard depicts religious trust as prior to judgment, but not childish. This trust can be reflective and questioning. Religious statements, however, find their home in a religious frame of reference. Within a religious frame of reference, we are able to see how religious judgments can be prior to judgment and still not infantile. Within that frame of reference, considerations of what is childish versus what is mature still apply; however, from outside that frame of reference, it is difficult to articulate accurately religious concepts. Kierkegaard bases trust not in self-interest but in
God, who is Love itself. He thus avoids Geach’s reduction of faith to prudence and presents a more adequate account of religious faith. In the final chapter I examine the work of Albert Camus in order to understand what trust might look like from a non-religious, non-instrumental perspective. Camus finds grounds for trust in the realization of our common human predicament, the absurdity of a life where humanity’s incessant quest for meaning is unanswered by a cold and silent universe. Camus assumes that the realization that we all share this predicament prompts one to see that human life is the only absolute value. However, Camus is ultimately unable to secure that value, since rebellion is not the only response possible to the absurd. Ultimately, reason cannot be the source of morality. This project began as my doctoral dissertation at the Claremont Graduate University School of Religion. I want first to express my gratitude to my advisor, the late D. Z. Phillips. That he was a deep and brilliant philosopher is well documented in the generous body of work he left behind, but he was also a devoted teacher, advisor, and friend. I greatly miss him. I also want to thank for their support the faculty, staff, fellow students, and friends at Claremont Graduate University and California State University, Dominguez Hills. For their patience, I want to thank the people at Ashgate Publishing, Limited. Lastly, I want to thank my husband for putting up with me throughout this process.
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Trust, Rationality, and Utility
Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.—Hobbes, Leviathan
Every day of our lives, knowingly or not, we exhibit trust in a multitude of ways. We cross the street, not questioning that drivers will take care not to run us over. We eat in restaurants without worrying that the food may be poisoned. We send our children to school and day care centers into the arms of strangers. We visit doctors who tell us that we are healthy or that we are not and are in need of some medical procedure. Some of us live the course of our lives without ever stopping to ask why we engage in activities that require our entrusting our lives, our loved ones, and our livelihoods to strangers. On the other hand, many of us do question these activities. At best, we wait until there are no cars present before we cross the street. At worst, we run across, watching for any sound or movement from the idling automobiles. We refrain from eating at restaurants or habit only those of whose safety we can reasonably be assured either by reputation or by our own experience. We research schools and day care centers to gain some confidence both in the curriculum and in the characters of the faculty and staff. Yet, that kiss good-bye every morning may require some courage, as when the morning paper carries stories of atrocities committed to children in just such places. We get second opinions and third opinions, hoping that if we see several doctors we will at some point hear the truth about just what is wrong with us, and what can be done to cure us, if anything is really wrong with us. The dark reality of our lives (including, but not limited to, auto fatalities, outbreaks of salmonella, child molestation, and malpractice) may prompt one to ask why it is rational to trust anyone, anywhere, at any time. For Enlightenment thinkers like Thomas Hobbes the answer to the question why we should trust is clear: it pays. Without trust, there would be no crossing of streets, no eating in restaurants, no sending children to school, and no visiting doctors. Nor would there exist the many social activities in which we engage, and which seem necessary for the living of our lives: driving cars and riding in cabs; sending our children to school, to piano lessons, to soccer practice, and to friends’ homes; going to work and coming home from work; watching the news and reading the paper; buying and selling goods and services at shops, at home, and over the internet; going to movies, the opera, and soccer games, etc., etc. Trust, as Hobbes would have it, is the necessary precondition for the existence of human society. Without trust, society cannot exist. Hermits living completely alone in some remote area of the world may be able to live without trusting others, but such people are extremely rare. (And of course, the hermit must trust in so many
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other things, broadly termed Nature: the regularity of the seasons, the behavior patterns of animals, the chemical compositions of plants, etc.) So the reward of trust is life in a society of other human beings, and that is a great reward indeed, for it is the reward of autos and public transportation, schools and sports, news and information, consumer goods, movies, operas, and art. However, the price to pay for trust is great as well. It is our very lives and livelihoods, and those of our loved ones, which we entrust to others and which, potentially, we can lose. The good news is that trust can be rational. Hobbes believed that the ills of humanity could be solved through the correct use and application of reason to human issues. He had suffered the experience of civil war and the near destruction of society as he knew it, and his great work Leviathan is an attempt to show his contemporaries how such war can be avoided by honoring one’s obligations to one’s sovereign. Hobbes conceived of a hypothetical covenant in which human beings agree to relinquish their powers to fulfill their natural desire to take advantage of others so that they can be free from the harm suffered by the advantage taken by others. The need for this covenant is a precept of reason, or natural law, as Hobbes would have it, as is the need to honor the obligations one incurs as a party to it. But is this enough? A society is created: Drivers agree not to run over pedestrians. Restaurant owners agree to serve only fresh food. Teachers and day-care workers agree not to harm our children. Doctors agree to provide us with proper diagnoses and health care in exchange for their fees. But, can Hobbes ensure that society’s members will abide by their contractual obligations, therefore making trust possible? Drivers still drive at inappropriate speeds and often under the influence of drugs, putting the lives of others in danger. There are still outbreaks of salmonella and e-coli. Teachers molest their students. Doctors perform unnecessary surgery. The social covenant is yet incomplete, for, according to Hobbes, there is no reason to expect individuals to live up to their contractual obligations as long as there is nothing to enforce those obligations. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Hobbes did not think that the human being was naturally a social creature. In his natural state man tends to engage in warfare and this nature does not change under social conditions. Therefore, a social covenant requires more than the agreement that individuals will refrain from acting upon their basic impulses. It requires an enforcer. Individuals must relinquish their power to harm others to a leader—a sovereign capable of enforcing the agreement as his/her power consists in the total combined power of the individuals who make up the covenant. This two-stage social covenant makes all other covenants possible: Individuals agree to relinquish their natural rights and then to transfer those rights to the sovereign; having transferred their power to a sovereign, individuals, i.e. citizens, incur obligations to the sovereign, including the obligation not to hinder the actions of the sovereign and to obey any laws that the sovereign deems necessary in order to keep the peace. Citizens must obey the laws of the sovereign or suffer punishment by the sovereign. This makes social interaction possible. Individual human beings act as if they had in fact entered into this hypothetical covenant in which they have agreed to give up their natural inclination towards
Trust, Rationality and Utility
war in order to promote their desire for peace, because it is in the best interest of individuals not only to conceive a hypothetical covenant, but also to uphold it. In this way, specific contracts and covenants—including the institutions of traffic laws, restaurants, schools and medicine—are possible. Necessarily such specific contracts are instruments for fulfilling self-interest, because they promote peace and prosperity. Hobbes’ individuals are wholly and necessarily motivated by selfinterest, as Hobbes’ discourse on human nature makes possible no other source of motivation. By entering into and honoring these contracts, citizens both gain security and avoid punishment. In addition, each citizen knows that others are also motivated by self-interest. Thus, the individual knows that others will honor their contracts to the extent that they also wish to enjoy security and avoid retribution. Trust is possible to the extent that citizens fear the consequences of following their true natures—as long as they fear the Sword of the sovereign. Self-interest, moderated by fear, makes trust possible. Or does it? Trust has utility. It enables covenants and covenants serve self-interest. Trust, it seems, is ultimately an instrument to self-interest, or what Hobbes calls ‘felicity’. For Hobbes, human beings necessarily seek to forward their own self-interest in all their actions. Trusting, therefore, is also necessarily an action committed in the interest of self-interest, and trust is rational when it is instrumental to self-interest. This concept of rational trust leads to what Martin Hollis calls ‘the paradox of trust’. Trust leads to greater social progress, and social progress leads to a higher degree of rationality among society’s members. As members become more rational, however, they begin to deal with each other more and more instrumentally, as a means to some end. However, the more human relationships become instrumental, the less those human beings can be trusted. As Hollis notes, ‘the progress of reason erodes the body which made it possible and which it continues to need’ (Hollis, p. 23). This also means that as rational people you and I understand that we can trust one another if, and only if, we lack the courage to break our agreements. Fear is the key to rational trust. A closer look at Hobbes’ theory of human nature will show that Hobbes’ individuals are not capable of understanding the effect their lives have on the lives of other individuals. In Hobbes’ world, moral relationships are purely instrumental; consequently, his concept of trust is impoverished. Hobbes cannot provide a rational basis for trust beyond what is purely instrumental; human beings are reduced to means or obstacles to one’s ends. In this scenario, trust can be merely predictive: one trusts others as they trust machines to function properly. In the following, I will elucidate Hobbes’ theory of human nature and the rise of the sovereign state. I will then examine the Hobbes’ citizen’s capacity for judgment and discuss what form of trust is possible in Hobbes’ commonwealth.
Trusting Others, Trusting God
The Social Covenant The hypothetical social covenant functions as the necessary condition for the possibility of social existence. Hobbes hints at the sanctity of this covenant in his introduction to Leviathan, where he writes that covenants ‘resemble that Fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation’. But Hobbes’ allusion to the concept of logos should not be taken to imply that the social covenant is a rational principle providing the conditions for the possibility of all pacts and covenants as if the ‘fiat’, the very ‘speaking’ of the covenant itself, creates the conditions for the possibility of pacts and covenants. That would imply that nothing further is necessary in order to secure the existence of, i.e., the rationality of, pacts and covenants. Hobbes goes on to insist that ‘Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words’. What is the social covenant and how does it provide the rational basis for all covenants, for trust, and in fact for society itself? Hobbes begins his project of the justification of government having carefully analyzed human nature into its constituent parts. The first several chapters of Leviathan express Hobbes’ empirical position; and he begins, as any good empiricist begins, with sensations. He explains how memory, imagination and understanding all derive from sensations. Sensations, caused by the motions of external objects against the sense organs, give rise to thoughts. All thought originates in sensation; sensations originate in those external objects which impinge upon the sense organs. Imagination, memory, and understanding also arise from sensations of external objects. ‘IMAGINATION therefore is nothing but decaying sense.’ Memory is synonymous with imagination; and the sum of one’s memories amounts to experience. These faculties do not distinguish humankind from the animals, as animals, too, have these faculties; rather, humanity is distinguished from the animals by Understanding, which gives rise to speech. Concepts and thoughts are pieced together into forms of speech: propositions, affirmations, negations, etc. Thoughts consist in the appearance, or image, of external objects to the mind, and successions of these appearances comprise trains of thought, which may be ‘unguided’, such as may occur in free-association, or may be ‘regulated’ by some desire or plan. Desire gives rise to thoughts about how one might come to produce the things one wants, to the means of achieving one’s desires. Hobbes further divides regulated trains of thought into two types: One type of thought train occurs when an effect is desired, and possible causes of its production are sought; another type occurs when the datum is a cause, and possible effects are sought. Guided by ‘design’, Hobbes states, the ‘discourse of the mind’ is rightly called ‘seeking’ or invention (Hobbes, pp. 88–96). Thought, if it is guided, is guided by one’s desires and thus the utility of thought is the fulfillment of desire. Prudence is foresight based upon experience, and the more experience one has, the greater her powers of prudence. Hobbes declares that man’s five senses are all he needs to live, but that his faculties that pertain to Speech may be improved by education so that he may use his Reason for the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Thought, understanding, and reason are prior
Trust, Rationality and Utility
to speech. It is not the capacity for speech itself that distinguishes man from the animals; rather, through the aid of speech and proper technique, the faculties of understanding and reason may be enhanced so as to make humankind superior to the animals. Speech is important for Hobbes, on the one hand, because it enables the creation of the commonwealth: SPEECH, consisting of Names or Appellations, and their Connexion; whereby men register their Thoughts; recall them when they are past; and also declare them one to another for mutuall utility and conversation; without which, there had been amongst men, neither Common-wealth, nor Society, nor Contract, nor Peace, no more than amongst Lyons, Bears, and Wolves (Hobbes, p. 100).
On the other hand, Speech is also important because the correct use of speech is required for the correct use of reason, the chief asset of speech being the precision it enables: ‘Seeing then that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth, had need to remember what every name he uses stands for; and to place it accordingly; or else he will find himselfe entangled in words, as a bird in lime-twiggs.’ Speech’s primary use, according to Hobbes, is to verbalize our thoughts. The utility of mental discourse being to fulfill one’s desires, the utility of speech is also to fulfill one’s desires, but now with precision. Speech amounts to the correct use of names and the relations between them. Hobbes insists that words joined together properly constitute truth; improperly, falsity. Thus he states that truth and falsity are properties of speech, not of objects themselves. Hobbes’ materialist starting point leads him to discuss speech and reason as if they were quantitative processes consisting in mathematical relations between individual thoughts: ‘Subject to Names, is whatsoever can enter into, or be considered in an account; and be added one to another to make a summe; or subtracted one from another, and leave a remainder’ (Hobbes, pp. 105–7). Names are the individual components of speech, corresponding to individual thoughts; therefore human beings require education regarding definitions and names, the correct use of speech being ‘the Acquisition of Science’. For Hobbes, understanding occurs when a person hears words and as a result has the thoughts to which those words and their connections correspond. Understanding, for Hobbes, is caused by speech. A quantitative process underlies Hobbes’ conception of reason as well. Reason is the ‘adding’ and ‘subtracting’ of the thoughts implied by the significance of the names and words employed. While reason is not a source of certainty, it must begin with precise, unambiguous definitions and follow a clear method if it is to lead to science. Absurdity is the result of a lack of method and of the improper use of names. Properly educated, he writes, ‘all men by nature reason alike, and well, when they have good principles’. These principles are the apt naming of objects and the proper method of connecting names together, leading to assertions. The correct connection of assertions, in turn, leads to syllogisms, ‘till we come to a
Trusting Others, Trusting God
knowledge of all the Consequences of names appertaining to the subject in hand; and that is it, men call SCIENCE’ (Hobbes, p. 115). Whereas thought in general serves individual self-interest, reason and science serve to benefit all of humanity. Hobbes concludes, ‘Reason is the pace; Encrease of Science, the way; and the Benefit of man-kind, the end’ (Hobbes, p. 116). Thus, the empiricist is able to show how the great human achievement of reason, serving the benefit of humankind, arises from mere sensations. Universal and objective, reason and science seek the benefit of all human beings, but individuals seemingly seek only self-interest. How can one move from the desire for individual satisfaction to the satisfaction of the desires of all? Hobbes proceeds to answer by taking up the topic of human motivations, which he discusses in terms of movements toward something—‘appetites’ to use his language—and of movements away from something—‘aversions’. Human beings, he explains, seek to fulfill their appetites and avoid their aversions, being drawn to or repelled from the objects giving rise to their appetites and aversions. These movements, according to Hobbes, are the basis for all human action. ‘Appetites’ are not merely physical desires, such as the desire for food and water, but include appetites for various other specific things that we know through our experiences. Thus not all individuals have the same appetites, and in fact neither does any one individual have the same appetites over time. Although specific appetites change, having appetites does not. They operate throughout life, ending only with death. Happiness, Hobbes believes, cannot consist in the satisfaction of all desires, as it is not possible to satisfy all of one’s specific desires. Happiness instead comes from fulfilling one’s general desire, and what human beings desire in general is what he terms ‘Felicity’. Felicity is the ‘Continuall successe in obtaining those things which a man from time to time desireth’, but what constitutes Felicity for each individual is different (Hobbes, p. 129). Individuals have different appetites and different strengths of appetite; because of this and because all individuals seek to fulfill their desires, it follows that different individuals will be satisfied differently. Achieving felicity obviously requires power. Individuals seek power to different degrees, for power, according to Hobbes, is one’s ability, in the present, to obtain a perceived future good. Thus, Hobbes’ individuals desire power for its utility, inasmuch as it is power that enables one to fulfill one’s desires and achieve felicity. Hobbes divides power into two types: natural and instrumental. Natural power is the power one has resulting from his/her faculties of body, mind and character, in other words, his or her physical and mental virtues. Instrumental power, in contrast, is the power that resides in those things gained by the use of one’s natural powers: wealth, friends, influence, and reputation, as well as luck or providence. One’s power does not consist in one’s mere potential strengths, but also in their use and their relation to others’ power. Hobbes, a pre-eminent realist, writes that one’s power ‘is defined not as his faculties of body and mind, but as the eminence of his faculties compared with those of other men … A man’s power consists of the amount by which his faculties, riches, reputation, and friends exceed those of other men’ (Hobbes, p. 34). In human society, the power of each person restrains and
Trust, Rationality and Utility
constricts the powers of others; power means ‘power over’ another. He famously concludes: ‘I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death. And the cause of this … because he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more’ (Hobbes, p. 161). Hobbes’ individuals are in a constant struggle against one another, a struggle to gain control of others’ power and to keep one’s own power free from hostile takeover. In Hobbes’ hypothetical ‘state of nature’ power struggles go unchecked and every person is constantly vulnerable to attack from others seeking her power— her faculties, her riches, her reputation and her friends. The ‘state of nature’ is hypothetical because in it there is no restraint, whereas actual individuals live in a world where restraint is constantly imposed. Such restriction of natural human desires is beneficial because without it, society and culture are not possible: In such a condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short (Hobbes, p. 186).
In the state of nature—a condition ‘where every man is Enemy to every man’—it is the right of every individual to do whatever she must to appease her appetites. Given these conditions, Hobbes insists that every individual has equal right to everything, even the lives and bodies of other individuals. It is important to note, however, that this urge to grab everything and everyone is not merely hypothetical. C. B. MacPherson writes, True it is only in such a state of nature that the right to life entails the right to do anything, to ‘possess, use and enjoy’ anything, to invade any other man. But the right to life can be (or so Hobbes believed) deduced directly from the internal impulsion of each human being to keep going. It is because of the impulsion that there is the right … The impulsion operates in man as such, not merely in man in a state of nature; the right is natural to man as such.
While it is natural for individuals to seek to fulfill their appetites, it is also natural that they seek to avoid death. It is thus necessary for individuals to find an able method for self-protection, as peace is also a natural pursuit of humankind:
Introduction to Leviathan, pp. 42–3. MacPherson here cites Thomas Hobbes’ Elements of Law, part 1, chap. 14 §10.
Trusting Others, Trusting God It is a precept, or generall rule of Reason, That every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of Warre … For as long as every man holdeth this Right, of doing what he liketh; so long are all men in the condition of Warre. But if other men will not lay down their Right, as well as he; then there is no Reason for any one, to devest himselfe of his: For that were to expose himselfe to Prey, (which no man is bound to) rather than to dispose himselfe to Peace (Hobbes, p. 190).
The drive for peace results in the first step of the social covenant: individuals mutually renounce their natural rights to cause harm to one another in order to secure peace. Hobbes’ second law of nature states, ‘that a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himselfe he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things’ (Hobbes, p. 190). However, Hobbes’ individuals are constantly impelled by appetites that drive them to seek the power of others. Thus an agreement between individuals to give up their right to other’s powers is cold comfort ‘without the Sword’. For this reason, having renounced their natural rights, individuals transfer their power to a sovereign, Leviathan, who is able to enforce the conditions of the covenant and ensure peace through fear and power. This second step of the covenant invests the sovereign with the authority to impose his/her will on others through fear for the benefit of peace. The power of the many is handed over to the One through the covenants made among the many. The sovereign One can thus use the entire power and strength of the many, in whatever way he or she deems necessary, in order to ensure the peace and safety of the many. Therefore, it is the power transferred from each individual member of the commonwealth that gives Leviathan its might. Only by a force so great can peace be assured. In this process of forming a commonwealth, individuals become citizens and are obligated, absolutely and unconditionally, to obey the laws of the sovereign. Although this covenant is merely hypothetical, Hobbes urges his contemporaries to act as if they in fact have engendered such obligations to their sovereign, so that the motivating impulse of all human endeavors, self-interest, is no longer unbridled, but held in check by the power of the government. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Hobbes did not believe that government is a natural phenomenon evolving from a natural human tendency to be social creatures. The state of war, instead, is natural to man, and government is an artificial creation, created by the ‘reason and art of man’. Human beings are roughly equal in their abilities, both physical and intellectual. This gives individuals equal hope of attaining their felicity, but competition for scarce resources breeds enemies, and eventually warfare. The concepts of right and wrong, justice and injustice, and property rights do not apply in the state of nature. The state of nature is a state of diffidence. Some individuals may be content to live within modest means, but such people find their resources, thus their happiness, constantly under attack by others who are not satisfied by the achievement of ample resources and security. Under constant attack by such malcontents, more satisfied individuals eventually
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meet their demise. Hobbes identifies three sources of conflict within the state of nature: competition, diffidence, and reputation. However, Reason indicates the way out of man’s horrific natural state: whereas the love of power leads to war, fear of death and desire for peace, together with Reason, reveal the laws of nature that make the commonwealth possible. While Hobbes suggests that morality does not apply in the state of nature, at times he does write as if moral terms were applicable. He discusses the Right of nature, which is the liberty of each individual to use his power in whatever means he deems necessary for the preservation of his life, where ‘liberty’ means the absence of any kind of obstacle to one’s rights. A right, Hobbes tells us, consists in ‘liberty to do, or to forbeare’ (Hobbes, p. 214). A law of nature, however, is a precept of reason by which one may preserve his life. A law is also a command, and implies a lawgiver, and while Hobbes says that they may properly be called laws of God, the laws of nature may also be called theorems or conclusions of Reason. Unlike social contract theorists, Hobbes does not believe that government is erected in order to protect an individual’s natural rights. The sovereign is not morally bound to his subjects, but is answerable only to God; hence, Hobbes can insist on the near total surrender of individuals’ rights. Reason suggests that the Right of nature, the right to everything, must be abandoned if we are to achieve peace, and only the right to self-defense is retained and is irrevocable. To insist upon one’s rights leads human beings down a path of war, but to insist upon law, that is, reason, leads human beings to peace, for ‘the true Doctrine of the Lawes of Nature, is the true Morall Philosophie’ (Hobbes, p. 216). Justice becomes possible only under a sovereign ruler. As there is no contract between the citizens and the sovereign, only between individual citizens, the government’s power is unquestionable. Not a party to the social covenant, the sovereign answers only to God. He retains the right of nature relative to his subjects. The social covenant is created in two stages: 1) individuals agree to renounce their rights; and 2) they agree to transfer their rights to the sovereign. Individuals by mutual assent create the sovereign authority and are bound by the previous covenant to each other to be bound by the sovereign. Everything the sovereign does is thus previously agreed to by the individuals of the covenant, and the sovereign, by definition, can never commit unjust acts against the citizens. Even though this social covenant is entered into in a state of fear, it is binding, Hobbes insists. Covenants incur real obligations. The third law of nature is to honor one’s covenants and is the very foundation of justice. Justice, on Hobbes’ account, is performing one’s covenants and injustice is breaking one’s covenants. He understands contracts to be defined by an exchange of rights and states that contracts relying on future performance are called covenants. The social covenant is one of mutual trust. Covenants generally are void in the state of nature because the first performer of the covenant has no assurance that the other will perform what is promised, and thus he betrays himself to his enemy if he trusts the other’s word to fulfill that covenant. Laws of nature are void where they conflict with the right to self-defense. Nevertheless, some covenants are valid in a state of nature,
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viz., those entered into upon fear of death (or else this would conflict with one’s right to preserve his life). Natural Philosophers Hobbes believes that he has established the necessary condition for the existence of society, failing to see that his social covenant cannot provide that foundation. ‘Commodious living’ is not grounded in the social covenant, for the covenant itself is only made possible by social life and the institution of education. Education is required prior to the establishment of the commonwealth. To see this, we need to look more closely at Hobbes’ laws of nature. Chapter 14 of Leviathan discusses the first and second laws of nature and contracts. Here Hobbes makes a direct link between natural laws, reason, and self-interest. A LAW OF NATURE, … is a Precept, or generall Rule, found out by Reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved (Hobbes, p. 189).
Note that the very idea of a law of nature is grounded upon self-preservation. Selfpreservation is the only right not renounced in the social covenant, and it provides the basis of all natural laws. Having defined a ‘law of nature’, Hobbes moves on to elucidate just what the laws of nature are. The first is ‘to seek Peace, and follow it [and] by all means we can, to defend ourselves’ (Hobbes, p. 190). This is unsurprising, flowing as it does from Hobbes’ definition of natural law and his explanation of human nature. Self-preservation drives individuals to seek peace and to defend themselves when necessary. Of course, for Hobbes, man does not seek bare existence, but rather the type of life that will give him the best chance for survival. Man seeks felicity; thus, the laws of nature are based upon not only the rational principle of self-preservation, but more generally on self-interest. While the first law of nature is easy enough to deduce given that it flows from human nature itself, the succeeding laws are not as obvious. The second law is: ‘That a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himselfe he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himselfe’ (Hobbes, p. 190). Hobbes is asking individuals to give up their Right of nature—their right to all things, excepting self-preservation. Hobbes enumerates the rest of the natural laws in Chapter 15. These include:
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a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k.
Justice Gratitude Mutual Accommodation Facility to Pardon Revenge Tempered by the Focus on Future Good, Not Past Evil Against Hatred or Contempt Against Pride Against Arrogance Equity Equal Use of Common Things Determination by Lot of the Use of Things Which Cannot Be Divided Equally l. Primogeniture m. Safe Conduct Granted to Mediators of Peace n. Willingness to Submit Disputes to an Arbitrator o. Against Self-Judgment p. Impartiality of Judges q. Fair Use of Witnesses The need for the education of individuals should now be clear, for these ‘laws of nature’ are not self-evident. Education is required not only to deduce these ‘laws’ as natural precepts of reason, but also to show that these laws do not conflict with the first two natural laws and in fact fulfill them. The understanding of these natural laws and their implications is required if individuals are to form a social contract, for otherwise why would any individual give up his or her natural rights in order to form covenants with other men and women? It is important to note that the education concerning natural law and the benefit gained by adherence to that law is necessarily prior to the transfer of natural rights and power to the sovereign, yet laws such as the impartiality of judges have no meaning in the pre-civil state of nature. So how could individuals existing in a state of nature be educated to such insight? Peter Winch’s statement regarding Hobbes’ covenant-makers seems right on track: ‘the men who could conclude Hobbes’ covenant and thereby set up a sovereign would have to already be philosophers … [or at the very least] products of a very considerable and extremely sophisticated social development’ (Winch, 1972, p. 92). Individuals in a state of nature must know the ‘true moral philosophy’ while existing in a state in which moral terms have no application. Hobbes’ social covenant, then, does not provide the basis for social life, but in fact requires social life as a precondition for the covenant. Individuals are capable of obeying the first natural law, the desire for peace and self-preservation, without ever formulating it as a precept of reason. One could go on instinct here. But the idea of giving up one’s rights, or insisting that ‘such things as cannot be divided, be enjoyed in Common, if it can be; and if the quantity of the thing permit, without Winch attributes this criticism of Hobbes to Giambattista Vico in his New Science.
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Stint; otherwise proportionally to the number of them that have Right’ (Hobbes, p. 212), for example, are not easy to deduce from human nature or as natural precepts of reason, and certainly require philosophical insight into natural rights and natural laws. But are Hobbes’ individuals capable of gaining this insight? Winch answers negatively; neither in a state of nature nor even in a commonwealth. According to Winch, Hobbes’ individuals are incapable of judgment and that shuts them off from a way of speaking in which an understanding of the lives of others is possible. Given that lack, any understanding of gratitude, equity, impartiality of judges, or the like seems impossible. The lack of judgment characteristic of Hobbes’ understanding of individuals arises from his empiricism, specifically his discussion of human nature and his failure to distinguish between sensation and judgment. The motions both internal and external to the body are the cause of sensations. Successions of sensations form trains of thought, but there is no method for ‘the comparison of sensations and the perception of the relations between them’, which is to say there is no means for judgment. Winch writes, ‘it is an essential concomitant of the capacity to judge that its possessor should come to make a distinction between himself, who judges, and the world concerning which he judges’ (Winch, 1972, p. 93). Individual bodies are not governed by judgment, but instead are subject to appetites and aversions that draw the body to, or away from, other bodies. These motions (appetites and aversions) govern not only the motivations of individuals but also their thoughts: When in the mind of man, Appetites, and Aversions, Hopes, and Feares, concerning one and the same thing, arise alternately; and divers good and evill consequences of the doing, or omitting the thing propounded, come successively into our thoughts; so that sometimes we have an Appetite to do it; sometimes an Aversion from it; sometimes Hope to be able to do it; the whole summe of Desires, Aversions, Hopes, and Fears, continued till the thing be either done, or thought impossible, is that we call DELIBERATION … In Deliberation, the last Appetite, or Aversion, immediately adhæring to the action, or to the omission thereof, is that wee call the WILL; the Act, (not the faculty,) of Willing … Will therefore is the last Appetite in Deliberating (Hobbes, pp. 127–8).
So even deliberation is not essentially an act of judgment, but, rather, is a mere train of thought that ends either in action or in inaction regarding some appetite or aversion. Hobbes, Winch writes, ‘has failed to see the importance of grammar in making the distinction between senseless strings of images and structured thoughts’. Individuals’ thoughts and actions are not guided by moral feeling, by a sense of right and wrong. Thoughts and actions are at the whim of sensations, the movements toward and away from external bodies, and, ‘the concepts of good and
Winch attributes this idea to Rousseau.
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evil are epiphenomenally related to those movements … Indeed, it is misleading to speak of “judgment” in this connection at all: good and evil are simply “sensed”’ (Winch, 1972, p. 95). Without a capacity for judging good and evil, the Hobbes’ individual lacks the language necessary for living in a social environment; she lacks the ability to speak about justice and gratitude, pardon and forgiveness, hope and humility, equity and impartiality. Moreover, she lacks the ability to speak and to make any sense of the world beyond its mere instrumentality and cannot see the impact that her actions have on others: Because Hobbes does not recognize the possibility of such a point of view he must hold that the world simply confronts an individual as something which acts upon him and is acted upon by him; not as an intelligible realm immersion in which can stimulate the growth of understanding. For Hobbes all practical questions arising from my relation to the world—including the world of other men—have the form: what are the obstacles to my desires and how can I remove the obstacles and avail myself of instruments to my advantage? (Winch, 1972, p. 97)
In Hobbes’ commonwealth, there exists no logical form by which the citizens can articulate their relationships with one another aside from those relationships’ utility for fulfilling self-interest. There is no possibility for individuals to come to an understanding of the true moral philosophy. Moral education fails Hobbes’ individuals because the laws they are taught have no place, no bearing, in their lives. Education is important for Hobbes because without it individuals cannot see their way out of the state of nature. John Edelman suggests that this is the very issue that Hobbes attempts to address in Leviathan. Individual members of society must discern the rational laws of nature and forego their immediate interests in order to avoid the inescapable outcome of civil strife. Thus individuals must be educated to the science of morality, but this is precisely what they cannot do, according to Winch, even if they exist not in a state of nature but in a commonwealth. Education is also important for the possibility of trust. Without education, one is a fool. The foole hath said in his heart, there is no such thing as Justice; and sometimes also with his tongue; seriously alleaging, that every mans conversation, and contentment, being committed to his own care, there could be no reason, why every man might not do what he thought conduced thereunto: and therefore also to make, or not make; keep, or not keep Covenants, was not against Reason, when it conduced to one’s benefit. … he questioneth, whether Injustice, taking away the feare of God, (for the same Foole hath said in his heart there is no God,) may not sometimes stand with that Reason, which dictateth to every man his own good (Hobbes, p. 203).
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The fool breaks covenants because she does not know the rational grounds for trust, that is, the natural laws; the fool questions the rationality of trust. She does not know that it is because the social covenant makes all other contracts and covenants possible that individuals are able to trust another and to honor their agreements. She fails to see that keeping one’s covenants is rational because it serves one’s self-interest. Will educating the fool provide Hobbes with the rational grounds for trust and morality? Even if the fool could be educated, the instrumental nature of human action in Hobbes’ philosophy undercuts the ability to elucidate a complete ethics, as it limits both trust and morality. Trust is only rational here if it serves self-interest, and Hobbes suggests that the sword of the sovereign is the rational basis for trusting another. Trust is required when one enters a covenant, since one must have faith that the other will ‘perform’, or honor his contractual obligations. Furthermore, covenants themselves are only rational when there is sufficient power to back them up, that is, to ensure that the other will in fact fulfill his obligations. Making and keeping one’s covenants is always beneficial and rational when covenants are made under the security of the sovereign’s power. This is because it is ultimately self-destructive to do otherwise, for man relies on his comrades not only in peacetime but also in conditions of war, and it is not wise to alienate one’s comrades by being deceitful or unreliable, let alone to suffer punishment from the sovereign. Thus, it is in one’s self-interest to make and keep covenants when living under the commonwealth, where human relations are thoroughly instrumental. The educated man knows that others are either means or obstacles to his ends (and that he, too, is a means or an obstacle to others’ ends). A covenant is a type of contract in which one or both parties agree to perform some act in the future, and a contract is ‘the mutuall transferring of Right’ (Hobbes, p. 192). Trust is the belief that the agreed to future act will be performed, thus trust is always associated with some type of exchange and is rationally based on the prediction that another will hold up his end of the bargain. Contracts, pacts, covenants and promises are essentially promises to do something, something that will benefit the parties involved. Friendship and bonhomie are only intelligible as instrumental relations in which participants trade something in exchange for something else. The vision of a society in which individuals are always rationally able to trust one another in acts of mutual exchange is Hobbes’ idyllic vision. What makes an exchange mutual? The demand for goods and services and the estimation of their value by the parties to the covenant define an exchange as mutual. In other words, individuals will bargain for the best possible deal, and will agree to covenant when each feels they are, at the very least, getting something of equal value in exchange for what they are providing. I say ‘at the very least’ because, after all, equity is often a subjective matter and given the interests of Hobbes’ individuals, it seems likely that one would try to get more than one’s fair share of goods or services whenever possible. In fact, given the chance, one would try to obtain something for nothing whenever one could get away with it. The only thing stopping one from cheating the system is the efficacy of the legal system. Whenever a person can reasonably
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avoid getting caught and punished for cheating another, they reasonably cheat, and this is truly the one thing that Hobbes’ individuals can count on each other for, the one thing that they can trust about their fellows: that they will cheat whenever there is a good chance of avoiding punishment. The idea of the rationality of cheating the system whenever possible is, apparently, an ancient one. In Plato’s Republic, Glaucon relates a question many young men of his day posed to themselves: How do I get ahead in life, by acting justly or by deceiving others? Glaucon says that the young men in question are neither ignorant slaves nor uneducated toilers of the lower classes, but rather are, presumably, educated men of good breeding. These men suggest that living a just life does not guarantee anyone wealth and happiness; that, rather, it is the mere reputation of justice that leads the way up the lofty tower of success. Glaucon then tells Socrates the story of the Ring of Gyges, which has the power to make its wearer invisible. The shepherd who found the ring used it to seduce the queen, kill the king, and take over his kingdom. Glaucon states that if there were in fact two such rings, one in the possession of a just man and the other in possession of an unjust man, both men would act unjustly. Both men would rob, rape, and commit adultery, kill whom he wanted to, and set free any prisoners he desired to free; in essence, committing crimes with impunity. This is proof, Glaucon claims, that moral behavior is the result of fear and constraint, not of personal integrity. Given the chance to do evil without fear of punishment, he says, ‘every man, when he supposes himself to have the power to do wrong, does wrong’, since doing wrong obviously pays more than doing good. In fact, Glaucon insists, anyone who gives up the chance to go wrong in such circumstances is a sap, a fool, and, ‘he would be regarded as most pitiable and a great fool by all who took note of it, though they would praise him before one another’s faces, deceiving one another because of their fear of suffering injustice’ (Republic, pp. 607–8). Thus, given the chance, the rational man will do injustice. Fear may deter one from breaking one’s covenant even when the benefits of breaking it outweigh the benefit of the goods received in exchange for fulfilling it; however, when the conditions are such that one can get away with breaking one’s covenant without fear of punishment, one does so. Glaucon’s young men are parasites on the system, freeloaders. Hobbes’ social covenant, Martin Hollis writes, Looks fragile … if only fear keeps us honest, each member … will rationally break the rules whenever it is safe to do so. That will be often, even if we stiffen policing by adding social disapproval to legal and other penalties levied on known defaulters. For, even though a rational agent will find that it pays to be of good repute, being truly honest does not always pay as well as being thought honest when one is not (Hollis, p. 33).
‘The point,’ Hollis writes, ‘is that fear of sanctions can at most make promisekeeping individually prudent, with the implication that it becomes irrational
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whenever we (or others) can avoid penalty.’ Mutual relations of trust break down given the opportunity to take advantage with impunity. Hobbes tries to avoid this conclusion by insisting that covenants incur real obligations, so that one is rationally bound to fulfill their covenants. But, as John Edelman writes, it is self-interest that defines one’s obligations. In fact, self-interest is the ‘reason’ for labeling something an obligation to begin with. But what can ‘obligation’ mean here? Edelman asks whether Hobbes is presenting an account of morality or justice at all. Hobbes’ account of morality typifies what Edelman terms ‘the politicization of morality’. Societies seek the necessary conditions by which members may satisfy their wants and needs. Morality serves this purpose. Because morality works to ensure the procurement of human wants and desires, it is a product of the polis. Such philosophies fail to elucidate morality at all: The fundamental criticism of such accounts of morality … might be put thus: by taking a purported fact about some moral practices as the raison d’être of all moral practices, the distinction between morality and self-interest is obliterated, with the result that what one might have taken for properly moral practices are presented as mere eccentricities, and instead of the ‘foundations’ of morality being laid open to view, self-interestedness is given a philosophical justification. Self-interest is made morality (Edelman, p. 25).
Edelman points to the distinction of obligations in foro externo and obligations in foro interno as key to Hobbes’ account. The latter refers to obligations to abide by natural laws in a state of nature. Such obligations are binding ‘only to a desire that they should take place’. For there exists no ‘sufficient security, that others shall observe the same laws’. In contrast, where sufficient security does exist, one is obliged ‘to putting them in act’. Sufficient security, Edelman argues, only exists where there is a sovereign power, and thus, ‘It is the existence of the sovereign that brings about the conditions in which obligations become obligations to action rather than obligations to a desire only’ (Edelman, p. 17). Do obligations to action exist even where no sovereign exists? Contra certain Hobbes scholars, Edelman suggests they do not. Hobbes states that the natural laws laid out in Leviathan are ‘the Lawes of Nature, dictating Peace, for a means of the conservation of men in multitudes; and this onely concern the doctrine of Civill Society’ and in contrast, laws against drunkenness and intemperance are laws ‘tending to the destruction of particular men’ (Hobbes, p. 214). But Edelman is not ultimately concerned with the question of whether obligations in foro externo exist in the state of nature, for ‘this does not alter the fact that a man retains his “right to everything” wherever there is no such power … where there is not “great enough for our security”’ (Edelman, p. 18). Obligations, on Hobbes’ account, are merely a function of self-interest understood in terms of the want for felicity. The concept of obligation, therefore, is based upon Hobbes’ belief that all human beings essentially seek their own individual felicity.
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The universality of the desire for felicity secures ‘objectivity’ for Hobbes’ account of what is ‘just’ and ‘unjust’, while the desire for felicity is itself the ground of obligation here, obligations being, one might say, the dictates of reason concerning the means to felicity. It is fear that inclines men to peace and makes possible a secure and stable social condition outside the State of Nature. That is to say, fear inclines men to erect a sovereign power over themselves so as to be freed from the State of Nature, while it also inclines them to obey that sovereign when his laws are backed by sufficient power (Edelman, p. 19). The problem with Hobbes’ account is that it does not provide for any genuine type of obligation. Obligations remain matters of prudence, and without the sovereign’s power of enforcement, obligations ‘amount to nothing but a sort of foolishness’. Where justice and morality are formulated in terms of utility, an understanding of morality is hampered. One’s obligations and duties cannot be distinguished from what is compelled by force, and dutiful performance of one’s obligations only amounts to ‘compelled performance’. Edelman writes, wherever that purposive conception of morality or justice is at work, precisely because it makes reasons, for action irrelevant to the goodness or justness of actions, there will be no room for Socrates’ distinction between the necessary and the just or the good. On this view, then, the politicization of morality, by removing the ‘inner life’ from the sphere of the moral, makes it impossible to articulate proper moral concepts (Edelman, p. 53).
So Hobbes still has not managed to provide a rational basis for trust and morality. Because rational self-interest is the guidepost of human behavior, Hobbes cannot provide an adequate account of moral concepts. He attempts to ground morality in divine law, but this tactic will not work either, because the power of God ‘obliges in a manner analogous to the manner in which the power of the sovereign obliges. Both powers oblige in that they dictate what is reasonable to do in pursuit of one’s felicity.’ So neither can Hobbes establish the rational basis for trust in morality in God, and the ‘fool’ proceeds to freeload off other members of society. Martin Hollis writes, The immediate crux is whether covenants without the sword are indeed but words. Hobbes’ social contract creates the state and gives it an ultimate monopoly of legitimate power, the threat of which makes it rational for you and me to honour our promises to one another. But there’s the rub. This account of obligation and the virtues of trustworthiness is strictly instrumental (if one sets aside reference to God and eternal laws), thus making it rational to default whenever self-interest is better served (Hollis, p. 36).
Edelman, p. 20.
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But a strictly instrumental account of morality is not a very adequate account. Hobbes cannot establish a ground for the rationality of covenants except by the fear of the sovereign, and that is not enough. ‘Mutual trust requires a wider compliance than fear of sanctions can excite or warrant’ (Hollis, pp. 36–7). Trust in the Commonwealth As Edelman has shown, Hobbes’ strictly instrumental account of human action limits what can be said about obligation and makes it impossible for Hobbes to elucidate proper moral concepts. Similarly, the utility of human action limits what can be said about trust. Martin Hollis marks a distinction between two types of trust: predictive and normative. Predictive trust is ‘trust[ing] one another to behave predictably’. This type of trust is applicable to ‘the natural world at large’ as well as to persons. He explains, ‘I trust my apple tree to bear apples, not oranges. I trust its boughs to hold my weight, if they look strong and healthy. I trust my reliable alarm clock to wake me tomorrow, as it did yesterday. I trust you to wear a blue shirt again today, never having seen you in anything else.’ Hollis writes, These are inductive inferences, reliable but, as every philosopher knows, not guaranteed, and trust is a simple matter of warranted prediction. Some of the warrants involve the attribution of purpose to human agents. But that is not untoward—I attribute purpose to my dog when I trust it to bark at intruders. There is nothing peculiar about trusting human beings, while trust is simply a matter of predictability (Hollis, p. 10).
In contrast, normative trust involves trusting another ‘to do what is right’. He offers the example of lending someone a copy of Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and trusting that they will return it. I expect you to return it even though we both know that I am far too scatty to remember that you have it. In what sense exactly do I expect it? In part, no doubt, I predict that you will, since I would hardly lend the book if I thought you too careless or dishonest to rely on. But notice the moral flavour of these defects. I also expect it of you that you will return my copy of Kant. I am entitled to have it back, and you are at fault if you do not oblige. There is a bond between us and I expect you to honour it in two senses, one predictive and the other normative. On the one hand, I predict that you will. On the other, I believe that you should— or at least that you believe that you should (Hollis, p. 11).
As Hollis notes, there is a difference between the ‘predictive expectation’ that you will return the book on time and the ‘normative expectation’ that you will return the book on time. The predictive expectation is based upon the fact that you have
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always returned the book you have borrowed on time; the normative expectation arises because ‘courtesy demands it’. Hollis further notes that either the predictive or the normative expectation may appear to be more fundamental than the other, depending upon whether one focuses on the idea of moral character or of social norms; but, he insists, ‘People do not obey norms solely out of prudence … and reasons for actions which hinge on mutual recognition of moral qualities affect the descriptions under which actions are done.’ Thus, returning Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason is also a matter of whether you acknowledge the norm of returning borrowed items and understand yourself as the type of person who returns what you borrow. And, in fact, the very description of the book as ‘borrowed’ amounts to the recognition that I remain its rightful owner. It is not simply a matter of your self-interest—whether you keep it because you want to keep it, or whether you return it because not doing so would cause trouble for you. If either were the case, I would not have lent you the book in the first place. Hollis writes, ‘Trusting people to act in their self-interest is one thing and trusting them to live up to their obligations is another. The former does not capture the bond of society, since the bond relies on trusting people not to exploit trust’ (Hollis, pp. 10–13). Hobbes’ individuals are clearly only capable of trust in a predictive sense, and that prediction goes as follows: you will make a covenant with me only when it serves your self-interest, and I will covenant with you only when it serves my own. If you are reasonable (and I trust/predict you are because of my experience with you, else I would not covenant with you), you will fulfill our covenant; however, if you can possibly avoid your obligations without punishment, you will do so (and so will I). For example, say I need to have a letter postmarked by the end of the day if I am to be considered as a candidate for a job. You say you will mail it for me (and perhaps I even pay you to do so, since Hobbes’ promises and covenants are always a ‘mutual exchange’). However, later you decide that it would be better for you to go straight home instead of mailing my letter at the mailbox several blocks away because you do not want to miss the opening minutes of the big game that you plan to watch tonight. It is unlikely that I will find out, since if I do not get the job, I will most likely believe that there was a more qualified candidate than myself, not that the letter did not arrive in time. (I would not have paid you to mail the letter in the first place if I did not think you would do so.) You will look like you performed responsibly. The point is that, because trust is merely predictive, I cannot be angry with you for failing to keep your end of the deal. Moral indignation has no place. Instead, I am at fault because I did not predict that you would have opportunity to break our covenant. (And perhaps you also predicted that you would drop the letter in the post and thus your prediction was wrong as well. On Hobbes’ account, there is no account of your remorse at breaking your word.) Edelman writes that in Leviathan, ‘The difference between the just man and the unjust man is finally that the former has better knowledge of the consequences’ (Edelman, p. 25). The same is true of the difference between one who trusts rationally and one who trust irrationally. In Hobbes’ commonwealth, the measure of all things is the ability to satisfy self-
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interest. Trust is limited to predictive trust; normative trust is not available without the capacity for understanding the impact of one’s actions on other people. Predictive trust applies not only to persons, but to objects as well, and the result of a total absence of normative trust results in the objectification of human beings. Human action and motivation in Hobbes is strictly instrumental and thus others are always means or obstacles. Human beings, like tools, autos, computers, and so forth, can be reliable; that is, they can perform as predicted, but if they fail to perform as predicted, the blame falls on the truster. One cannot ‘blame’ a broken computer for its failure to work as anticipated. Moral blame is not ascribable to objects. This is also true of the people of Hobbes’ commonwealth. We cannot ascribe moral blame to them if they fail to fulfill their covenant obligations. And they feel no remorse or shame. It is interesting that although the contract, or covenant, is the model that Hobbes employs for his understanding of trust, the model is not applicable. In contractual agreements, the party who fails to fulfill their obligations is the one who is to blame for the breach of contract; but in Hobbes’ Leviathan covenant breakers cannot be blamed, for they act rationally when they forego their obligations. If trusting individuals is like trusting objects, then what one trusts in the other is their ability to function predictably (according to design) and the other becomes a machine. If trust is to exist in the commonwealth, then what one trusts in another is the fact that he is guided by rational principles. One does not trust ‘in’ the other, but in the principles that guide him. Hobbes’ individuals ultimately are incapable of gaining any moral knowledge deeper than the disappointment they feel at not getting what they were promised. Hobbes discusses certain moral concepts such as justice and gratitude as natural laws, but knowledge of these concepts is not attained through the mere acceptance of general precepts about justice and gratitude. These concepts are only fully understood where they are felt, that is, where an individual actually experiences gratitude toward another person. Contrast, for instance, Hobbes’ general concept of injustice (not performing one’s covenant obligations) with the experience of having a promise made to you broken; the grief over a broken promise is not necessarily a result of the ‘lack of performance’ of the other party or the loss of the object or experience promised. The grief over a broken promise is often a result of the lack of respect or consideration that the other has exhibited toward you. Hobbes’ individuals are cut off from such grief: If you are my friend, and you fail to mail my letter as promised, I cannot blame you for any misdeed. I cannot feel betrayed by you. (In fact, it seems unlikely that friendship could exist in Leviathan.) Hobbes’ individuals also lack the ability to understand the concept of good and evil that Plato gives in response to the Sophists. When Plato is confronted with the Sophist version of Hobbes’ individuals, he appeals to another way of speaking about good and evil. In the Gorgias, Callicles quotes Pindar’s ode, stating that natural law ‘carries all, justifying the most violent deed’, for it is natural justice
See Marcel Sarot, ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’.
Trust, Rationality and Utility
that ‘the cattle and all other possessions of the inferior and weaker belong to the superior and stronger’ (Gorgias, p. 267). The Sophist’s viewpoint is given in detail by Glaucon in The Republic, book two: By nature … to commit injustice is a good and to suffer it is an evil, but that the excess of evil in being wronged is greater than the excess of good in doing wrong, so that … those who lack the power to avoid the one and take the other determine that it is for their profit to make a compact with one another neither to commit nor to suffer injustice, and that this is the beginning of legislation and of covenants between men, and that they name the commandment of the law the lawful and the just, and that this is the genesis and essential nature of justice—a compromise between the best, which is to do wrong with impunity, and the worst, which is to be wronged and to be impotent to get one’s revenge (Republic, pp. 606–7).
Plato’s response to the Sophists is given in the Gorgias: ‘Theft and kidnapping and burglary and in a word any wrong done to me and mine is at once more shameful and worse for the wrongdoer than for me the sufferer’ (Gorgias, p. 291). In Plato’s society the ability to appeal to an understanding of good and evil in contrast to that of the Sophists is a possibility because the people of Athens are capable of understanding the ways in which their actions impinge upon the lives of others. They are capable of understanding the suffering of others as such. Plato is able to mine the ‘quality of life shared by the citizens’ and appeal to a shared sense of justice. The quality of life shared by Hobbes’ individuals lacks any sense of justice beyond the purely instrumental. Hobbes’ individuals have no shame. References Edelman, John (1990), An Audience for Moral Philosophy?, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (1651), edited and with introduction by C. B. MacPherson (1981), Penguin, New York. Hollis, Martin (1998), Trust within Reason, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Plato (1989), Gorgias, trans. W. D. Woodhead, in Hamilton, Edith and Huntington Cairns (eds.), Plato: The Collected Dialogues including the Letters, Princeton University Press, Princeton. _____ (1989), Republic, trans. Paul Shorey, in Hamilton, Edith and Huntington Cairns, (eds.), Plato: The Collected Dialogues including the Letters, Princeton University Press, Princeton. This is Winch’s phrase to describe what is lacking in Hobbes’ individuals. See ‘Man and Society’, p. 108.
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Sarot, Marcel (1996), ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’, Sophia 35: 101–15. Winch, Peter (1972), ‘Man and Society in Hobbes and Rousseau’, in Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. _____ (1987), ‘Particularity and Morals’, in Trying to Make Sense, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.
Religious Trust and Utility
Prayers precede, and Thanks succeed the benefit; the end of both of the one, and the other, being to acknowledge God, for Author of all benefits, as well past, as future.—Hobbes, Leviathan
Hobbes wanted to show that trust—the forming and keeping of covenants—is the necessary condition for the formation of society. When an individual in the state of nature asks why she should lay down her weapons in order to make a covenant of peace with other persons, Hobbes answers that it pays to do so. But Hobbes fails to establish the necessary conditions for the formation of society, as his theory of natural law requires individuals already to have a philosophical education in order to understand the benefit of making a social covenant. But why should we trust Hobbes’ answer? Again, Hobbes’ reply is that reason shows us that we can achieve more through social peace than through constant warfare. But, if Hobbes’ view of human nature is correct, we cannot see what he expects reason to show us. We cannot understand the concept of justice, which is fundamentally tied to the keeping of covenants, because we do not see others in any terms beyond instrumental terms. We are incapable of moral knowledge, and thus justice, defined as the keeping of covenants, is always beyond our grasp. Hobbes cannot provide us with the answer of why we should give up our natural inclinations to war and instead live lives of justice and peace. In this chapter, I want to move from Hobbes’ theory of human nature, the defects of which hinder our attempt to examine the concept of trust, in order to examine the idea of trust in God. I will look at two philosophers, Phillipa Foot and Peter Geach, who both, like Hobbes, believe that it pays to be good. The question at hand is whether we should trust that judgment. We see the wicked prosper. Why should we trust that a life of justice is better than a life of injustice? Do we want to give up the idea that it pays to be good? From the time we are children we are told to ‘be good’. We are taught what is right and what is wrong, what kind of behavior is acceptable and what kind is not. We seek to avoid punishment and gain social acceptance, but we also see bad people, evil people, thrive and prosper. We are angry and jealous of what they get away with. We, ourselves, fail to live just lives. Our society is hungry for movies about gangsters and drug dealers, and no matter whether or not we publicly disavow such characters, ticket sales and video rentals tell another story. Gangsters and drug dealers have a mystique that compels us. We try to emulate them in subtle, or not so subtle, ways. We appreciate the kind of life Mother Theresa led but are not induced to follow her example; Hollywood is not producing film after film
Trusting Others, Trusting God
about her, or anyone like her. We do not don blue and white saris, for goodness and purity never inspired ‘a look’ beyond the bridal gown. Why be good? Does it pay to be good? Is that an acceptable answer? Phillipa Foot argues that it is. Goodness pays because evil requires constant diligence and unease, for the evil person must always be on guard against enemies. The rewards of being a gangster (the money, the power, the ability to enact revenge on one’s enemies, to name a few) are not worth the constant vigilance required to keep one safe from one’s enemies and from the authorities. Given the choice between a life of profit coupled with unceasing, assiduous distrust of one’s associates, versus a less profitable, and thus, disappointing, life in which one has moments of calm and ease, the rational person chooses the second. Perfidy is not the optimum state of man’s existence. Is this line of argument enough to dissuade someone from a life of crime? Or is it, rather, that the criminal fails to see the rational implication of trust? Is it not true that as long as there are holes in the system, as long as one can cheat and get away with it, one will take the malevolent route? And what if there are no holes in the system, if it is only a matter of time before one reaps the whirlwind? What if punishment is certain, not in this life of course, but in the next? Religious believers give an affirmative answer to that question. However, one might argue that it has become increasingly difficult for believers to hold on to their faith, given the desperation of our times. Why do the wicked prosper? Why do bad things happen to good people? Peter Geach writes, ‘An earthly potentate does not compete with God, even unsuccessfully’ (Geach, p. 127). Well, tell that to Holocaust survivors. Some claim that God is dead, and worship is mere twisting in the wind. If we are to remain believers, we will need something to counteract the events of the twentieth century that call us to shake our fists at God or to deny God’s very existence: Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot; the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Chernobyl; September 11; cloning, and so on. We need to understand how it is that God could allow tens of thousands to die horrible deaths at the hands of terrorists. Is the fear of God’s punishment enough to inspire faith? Religious practices are viewed, at best, as a group of activities pertaining more to one’s social background than to faith, and in which the practices of one’s parents and grandparents are carried on for reasons of tradition alone. At the least, religious practices are viewed as the actions of childish people, foolishly persisting to believe in a Father who resides in heaven. Perhaps ‘quaint’ is a better word than ‘childish’ or ‘foolish’. Since these quaint believers are at the same time voters, it is the usual practice for politicians, and the politically correct, to pay lip service to religious belief. Hobbes himself believed we should act this way, publicly, because it pays to do so. So does it pay to believe?—Not in the sense that it will gain you favor with your fellows or get you votes, for in the end those things are unimportant, but in the sense that it pays because God punishes unbelievers and rewards the faithful. Ultimate reward and punishment are not meted out in this lifetime, but in the afterlife. Belief pays, and pays well—but, it is perhaps most important that we never forget that the wages of sin is death.
Religious Trust and Utility
In the last chapter, we saw how individuals living in Hobbes’ commonwealth are incapable of making judgments of good and evil and are able to trust one another only in a predictive, rather than a normative, sense. These citizens lack the ability to understand what effect their lives have on the lives of others and see others merely as means or obstacles to their ends. Where human relationships are purely instrumental relationships, individuals cannot make moral claims on one another. Their desires for power over others in pursuit of their own felicity are held in check only by the strength of the sovereign, whose civil authority is absolute. But Hobbes is concerned that citizens do not put all of their efforts into pleasing their earthly sovereign, for each individual must also keep an eye to the most supreme sovereign, omnipotent God. Hobbes writes that citizens owe obedience to the sovereign as long as that obedience is not in conflict with the laws of God. Prudence calls for discernment: individuals must navigate between the two ‘rocks’ (Hobbes, p. 395) of pleasing God and pleasing the sovereign ruler. Too much emphasis on pleasing the earthly leader may be displeasing to God, whereas too much emphasis on pleasing God may lead one to break the sovereign’s laws. (Religious fanaticism is not altogether acceptable, is it?) It is felicity that governs this path between the rocks, as it is for man’s benefit that honor is bestowed upon both the earthly king and the king of heaven, as the rewards they can bestow are great, and their punishments mighty. To that end, Hobbes distinguishes between private and public worship, advocating public obedience to social norms of worship and private obedience to whatever forms of worship the individual understands as necessary homage to God. While the rule of the earthly sovereign is erected by a covenant, the rule of God is not. The social covenant was established because individuals are equal in power, but if there had been any individual whose power was invincible, a covenant would be unnecessary and of no value, since the invincible is a natural leader. So whereas individuals incurred obligations to the sovereign through their mutual covenant, the obligations owed to invincible God are not so incurred, but are rather incurred via God’s infinite power. While God’s goodness and mercy are worthy objects of devotion, God’s power alone provides a rational basis for worship and for God’s absolute sovereignty. Hobbes maintains that God’s ‘right’ to govern mankind, to deliver punishments and rewards, is not derived from the fact that God has created mankind, but rather from the fact of God’s omnipotence. The right to sovereignty of one human being over others is obtained through covenant, but the right itself is derived from nature when one’s power is overwhelming. Hobbes writes that everyone has a right to reign over everyone else, but this right cannot be had through force since it just so happens that no one is powerful enough to rule over all others. Thus the covenant is established. But, Hobbes notes, if there had been a person whose power was, as he puts it, irresistible, there would be no need for the covenant and she would, in accord with natural law, rule over all (however she saw fit), and she would have a right to do so. But there is only one being whose power is irresistible: God. God, thus naturally and by right, rules over all things as a result, not of God’s function as Creator, but of God’s omnipotence.
Trusting Others, Trusting God
Hobbes insists that God has made the divine laws knowable by natural reason (although we saw that there are serious faults with Hobbes’ position). He enumerates these laws in Chapters 14 and 15 of Leviathan, where he is careful to point out that God’s punishment of those who break divine laws is not made possible because of a right God has to punish sinners deriving from the nature of sin. For both God and the sovereign, the right to punish transgressors of the law, divine or civil as the case may be, derives solely from power. The sovereign, like God, exists in a state of nature relative to individual citizens, and retains his right of nature. In the previous chapter, we saw that Hobbes’ individuals rationally broke their covenants when it was in their best interest to do so; that is, when they could break those covenants without fear of punishment. Breaking God’s laws is, however, a different matter: it is never rational to break God’s laws, whatever the possible gain, because divine punishment is inescapable. The atheist may think that she has been freed of the moral fetters of religion, but she is fooled. Divine justice is inevitable. Again, it is God’s power and the human drive for felicity that establishes the rational basis for worshipping God; thus, religious trust, like trust in others, is purely instrumental. This is borne out in Hobbes’ discussion of honor, which he defines in terms of respect for power and goodness, an inner state whose outer manifestation is worship. He notes that ‘worship’ is related to the Latin term cultus, claiming, ‘For cultus signifieth properly, and constantly, that labour which a man bestowes on any thing, with a purpose to make benefit by it’ and again, ‘the worship we do him, proceeds from out duty, and is directed according to our capacity, by those rules of Honour, that Reason dictateth to be done by the weak to the more potent men, in hope of benefit, for fear of dammage, or in thankfulnesse for good already received from them’. For Hobbes, fear is the basis for worship of God and faith amounts to little more than obedience. In fact, Hobbes tells us, ‘Obedience to his laws … is the greatest worship of all’ (Hobbes, pp. 399–405). But can we believe in such a God? Can we put our trust in this providence? That is the central question of this chapter. Does It Pay to Be Good? Before I do put my faith in God or trust the religious who say that there is a supernatural judgment, I want to ask how far natural reason can take me in knowing the value of morality. Do I need God in order to see that it pays to be good? In Phillipa Foot’s article ‘Moral Beliefs’, she addresses the question of the utility of moral beliefs (apart from complicating religious beliefs). The purpose of ‘Moral Beliefs’ is to examine the premises involved in arguments against naturalism in order to show their falsity, and thus also the falsity of the fact/value distinction in ethics, and, for our purposes, to show that it does in fact pay to lead a good life. Foot argues against those philosophers who believe that value judgments are logically discrete from factual statements that serve as their roots. These same philosophers understand moral evaluations as having an ‘action-guiding’ or ‘practical function’
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(Foot, p. 126). This approach to moral philosophy includes two assumptions regarding evaluations that Foot characterizes as follows. First, it is assumed that, in matters of morality and value, it is not necessary to appeal to generally agreed upon types of evidence for one’s position to be cogent. Thus, an individual may appeal to the Bible as a source of her values, regardless of whether others agree that the Bible is a legitimate source of morality. Second, it is assumed that one can refuse to accept that something counts as evidence, even if others insist that it does, and, thus, she can refuse to accept the conclusions that they draw. It is the refutation of the second assumption that leads Foot to discuss the utility of moral virtues, and, in particular, the virtue of justice. ‘Can we give anyone, strong or weak,’ she asks, ‘a reason why he should be just? (Foot, p. 126)’ Foot refers to Thrasymachus’ argument in the Republic, viz., if injustice is more profitable than justice, then one should live an unjust life as the best possible kind of life, provided that one can get away with it. The problem for many moral philosophers, as Foot would have it, is that they accept the premise of Thrasymachus’ argument, but not its conclusion; but Foot insists that the argument is coherent. Her approach, however, is to deny the premise that injustice is more profitable than justice. According to Foot, the difficulty in establishing that premise has been that people tend to parse a moral life into separate, individual acts of justice. If one is to see the rationality of acting justly, one needs to follow one’s reason beyond the moment and examine the whole scope of a moral life. Then one will come to see that a lifetime of injustice is not in one’s interest. Foot’s position is here similar to Hobbes’: both philosophers believe that ‘injustice is more profitable than justice’ seems like a rational statement, but a closer examination can lead one to see its falsity. Let us take a closer look at Foot’s article. Foot begins her defense of naturalism by attacking the first assumption. This premise entails the assumption that ‘the evaluative function of good can remain constant through changes in the evaluative principles’. Philosophers who follow this line of argument add these types of qualifications: ‘such words as “good” only apply to individual cases through the application of general principles … “commending”, “having a pro-attitude”, and so on, are supposed to be connected with doing and choosing … [and] The range of evaluation is supposed to be restricted to the range of possible action and choice.’ As Foot notes, the question to be answered is whether there is some concept of ‘good’ that is present in any individual applications of the term but which is also exterior to those individual applications. She answers negatively, insisting that ‘good’ is internally related to its object, and that there is a logical connection between evaluative statements and the factual statements on which they are based. In order to develop further the notion of ‘internal relation’, Foot mentions such concepts as pride, fear, and dismay. The logical relationship between pride and the object of pride, for example, can be seen in the fact that not just anything can count as an object of pride. An object of pride belongs to the prideful person, or is the result of his doing, and therefore he cannot claim to be proud, say, ‘that he has saved the sky from falling’. Similarly, one cannot fear something that she does not regard as unfavorable, and one cannot
Trusting Others, Trusting God
feel dismay about something with which one is pleased. Since pride, fear, and dismay are emotions and perhaps not properly analogous to commendation, Foot offers another example: dangerousness. She compares ‘This is dangerous’ to ‘This is good’, noting that both are assertions that appear to be supportable by evidence. Since ‘This is good’ is supposed to commend something (‘this’), is ‘This is dangerous’ supposed to warn us of something? In other words, do the concepts of ‘dangerous’ and ‘good’ have a function irrespective of what is being commended or warned against? Foot argues that one cannot warn against just anything without committing nonsense. ‘It is logically impossible to warn about anything not thought of as threatening evil’, understood by Foot as causing ‘injury’. Dangerousness and injury are thus internally related, and the meaning of ‘danger’ is restricted by what can count as an ‘injury’, so that ‘We have the right to say that a man cannot decide to call just anything dangerous’ (Foot, pp. 112–18). This is because we cannot call just anything an injury. For example, an injury to the eye is one that lessens one’s sight, not improves it; and thus a cataract operation cannot be considered an injury. The question at hand is whether a similar relation exists between ‘commendation’ and its object as exists between ‘dangerous’ and its object. Is the use of ‘good’ or ‘commendation’ restricted by an internal relation to its object, or can one logically use ‘good’ to describe or commend anything whatsoever? Again, Foot argues that the use of terms like ‘good’ and ‘commendation’ are logically restricted. She considers the example of a man ‘who clasped his hands three times an hour’: And we can point to the oddity of the suggestion that this can be called a good action. We are bound by the terms of our question to refrain from adding any special background, and it should be stated once more that the question is about what can count in favour of the goodness or badness of a man or an action, and not what could be, or be thought, good or bad with a special background. I believe the view that I am attacking often seems plausible only because the special background is surreptitiously introduced (Foot, p. 118).
Thus, because of the oddity of saying that clasping one’s hand three times an hour is ‘good’, we are forced, Foot argues, to ask the question ‘How do you mean [good]?’ Is it a duty? A virtue? She points out that ‘the sentence ‘this is a good action’ is not one which has a clear meaning’. She insists that we cannot make any sense out of the example unless we add some explanatory background; if we are, for example, to insist that the man somehow has a duty to clasp his hands three times an hour, this ‘duty’ is only explicable via some back story that makes clear why this is a duty and to whom it is a duty. The important thing to notice here is that where an internal, logical relation exists between ‘good’ and the things that we call good we do not ask for a special background to explain the circumstances. ‘Feeding a hungry infant is a good action’ is an assertion whose truth will go unquestioned, and, in fact, you will have to provide a special background if you want to challenge that truth. When an assertion is questionable, such as ‘clasping
Religious Trust and Utility
one’s hand three times an hour is a good action’, the sense of oddity that occurs when calling such an action ‘good’ arises from the seeming lack of connection between the term ‘good’ and its object. We seek a logical relation when ‘good’ is employed, and we ask ‘How do you mean?’ when we cannot find that connection or when that connection is ambiguous. Foot makes clear that moral virtues must be conceptually connected to our ideas about ‘human good and harm’. She further points out that we are restricted by our concept of good and harm so that we cannot simply cannot label anything we like as ‘good’ or ‘harmful’. For example, she writes that it would be ‘odd if someone were supposed to say that harm had been done to him because the hairs of his head had been reduced to an even number’. Foot concludes that the first assumption above is ‘very dubious indeed, and that no one should be allowed to speak as if we can understand ‘evaluation’ ‘commendation’ or ‘pro-attitude’, whatever the actions concerned’ (Foot, pp. 118–20). Foot next attacks the second assumption, ‘that a man might always refuse to accept the conclusion of an argument about values, because what counted as evidence for other people did not count for him’. On this view, use of the word ‘good’ is supposed to commit the will of the speaker, and this leads to a ‘logical gap’ because one could accept the facts but not the evaluation of them. ‘With an evaluation there was a committal in a new dimension, and … this was not guaranteed by any acceptance of facts.’ Foot finds this view incorrect. She states that the so-called ‘logical gap’ between facts and the value judgments drawn from them arises from the misuse of moral terms; correct use makes the gap disappear. Once more, the position that Foot argues against characterizes moral beliefs as ‘action-guiding’. She examines the ‘action-guiding’ sense of the term ‘injury’ as a ‘pattern for the ‘action-guiding’ force of moral terms’. She writes, ‘It is clear I think that an injury is necessarily something bad and therefore something which as such anyone always has a reason to avoid, and philosophers will therefore be tempted to say that anyone who uses “injury” in its full “action-guiding” sense commits himself to avoiding the things he calls injuries’; but she also notes that ‘this account of the “action-guiding” force of “injury” links it with reasons for acting rather than with actually doing something (Foot, p. 122)’. We can anticipate circumstances in which one might have ‘even better reason for seeking than for avoiding injury. In this respect the word “injury” differs from terms such as “injustice”; the practical force of “injury” means only that anyone has a reason to avoid injuries, not that he has an overriding reason to do so.’ This point is even more problematic in consideration of the virtues of prudence, temperance, courage, and justice. These virtues ‘show the artificiality of the notions of “commendation” and of “pro-attitudes” as these are commonly employed’. Thus, it is not enough, for the philosophers that Foot criticizes, that we say of a person that she or he is courageous. There is the further issue of ‘commending’ her for her courage. This prompts Foot to ask whether it even makes sense to ask if someone ‘commends’ something, as the ‘commendation’ comes to be treated as if it is something additional to the facts. The addition is superfluous. Foot notes that if we like a person for her courage, our further ‘commending’ her for that
Trusting Others, Trusting God
courage only muddies the moral waters. On the one hand, we only commend someone for courage if we already accept courage as a value. Foot notes that some philosophers are prompted to say that we only value courage in another if we first adopt courage as a personal imperative, but, she insists, this is wrong. I can value courage in another while at the same time realizing that I am a coward. So, on the other hand, accepting courage as a value does not necessarily entail adopting courage as a personal ideal. ‘I can speak of someone else as having the virtue of courage, and of course recognise it as a virtue in the proper sense, while knowing that I am a complete coward, and making no resolution to reform’ (Foot, pp. 121–4). Foot’s conclusion is that it is, therefore, difficult to see what exactly one means by ‘commendation’. We cannot characterize the function of moral terms like ‘good’ as ‘committing oneself to some specific action’. We can imagine instances in which one might say that courage is not a virtue, for courage may lead to catastrophic consequences, or may become a point of pride. Thus, one could commend courage in theory but not in practice, seeing that the practical effects of the virtue of courage may be detrimental. Similar points can be made about the virtues of prudence and temperance. At this point, Foot asks comparable questions about the virtue of justice, and this is where she ponders the reasonableness of Thrasymachus’ argument about the profitability of justice. Virtues are sought, generally, because they are advantageous to the person who can cultivate them. Justice, however, is different. When I ponder why I should cultivate the virtue of justice, it seems that justice will only be of benefit to others and it is not at all clear what the benefit will be to me. Agreeing with Thrasymachus, Foot characterizes the just man as someone who ‘will find himself in need of things he has returned to their owner, unable to obtain advantage by cheating and lying’. Obviously, he would be better off if he kept the items he ‘borrowed’ and cheated and lied when it benefits him. So why is it the case that justice is a virtue and injustice a vice? Foot believes this question is integral to a proper theory of the virtues (Foot, p. 125). It is here that Foot reveals the true colors of her moral theory. Her criticism of the ‘action-guiding’ view of moral beliefs is not a criticism of the idea that moral beliefs guide one’s actions, but rather a criticism that moral beliefs are merely guides for specific, isolated actions. She argues instead that moral beliefs should be seen as a guide for how one lives one’s life. She argues that courage, temperance, and prudence may be commended as virtues without being adopted. This is perhaps because I can see the possible folly arising from these virtues, as in my death resulting from my courageous attempt to climb a dangerous mountain. Thus I can ‘commend’ the virtue of courage for I know it brings, among other things, fame to one who possesses it, and that it would also bring me fame if I, too, possessed it, but measuring the utility of courage against the risk involved, I find that it is just not worth it. Perhaps instead I am able to see that I am not the kind of person who can have these virtues. I am not a courageous person, or a temperate one. I am too frightened, too weak, and unwilling to make the effort to cultivate these virtues in myself. The attempt would be futile—of no utility. But whereas
Religious Trust and Utility
one can weigh the utility of cultivating courage, or temperance, or prudence, the virtue of justice poses a problem because it seems to lack any utility at all. Again, like Hobbes, Foot’s position is that if one carries through the argument that justice is more profitable than injustice, one will see that it is reasonably so. The idea that injustice is the more rewarding position results from a sort of myopia, an inability to see the summation of an entire life of justice. Foot demonstrates this by illustrating what the life of a person who chooses to live by injustice must be like: he must live a pretense, acting as if he genuinely cares about others when he is merely waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of them. His associates only trust him as long as the association is of more value to him than its break-up, for he will turn on his associates if that will provide the most benefit to him. Therefore, his associates must always be on their guard, and knowing the likelihood of his treachery, they themselves are not trustworthy. Foot believes that such a person could not hide his true nature from others for very long, if at all. But, she writes, ‘in any case the price in vigilance would be colossal … As things are, the supposition that injustice is more profitable than justice is very dubious, although like cowardice and intemperance it might turn out to be incidentally profitable’ (Foot, p. 129). If one looks not at single separate incidences, it will seem as if injustice is the more profitable way to lead one’s life, but given a life committed to injustice, the costs are high. Of course, as Foot points out, a just man may lose his life as a result of his stance on justice. A just life is not a guarantee against harm, but an unjust life is almost certain to lead to harm. Thus Foot’s recommendation of a just life is possible because of the probability that a just life will pay off, whereas the odds are that an unjust life will not. D. Z. Phillips declares that Foot’s position ‘reduces morality to expediency and principle to policy’. He points out that while Foot’s argument relies on certain tacit presuppositions about the kind of importance we take moral actions to have, those presuppositions concern the utility of justice. Phillips imagines a leader of whom people might say ‘he ought to deal justly with his subjects’. He notes that whereas the people see and acknowledge the profits gained by the ruler through a life of injustice, including wealth, power, and comfort, they understand those profits to be, in fact, ‘unprofitable’. By leading an unjust life, the ruler—though he may be wealthy, powerful, and comfortable—has not gained anything. Phillips calls this ‘a clash between two rival conceptions of what constitutes profit in a man’s life’ and the judgment passed on the ruler by his people is ‘a moral judgment’. That such a judgment is possible, Phillips notes, ‘shows conclusively that the relevance of morality does not depend on whether it pays or not’. Foot’s mistake, he points out, arises from the attempt to find a justification of moral belief that is exterior to morality itself. Phillips writes, ‘such an attempt always fails; it distorts the kind of importance which moral considerations have for us’ (Phillips, 1992, pp. 110–13). While Foot is willing to admit that a man may die as a result of choosing to lead a life of justice, she cannot help but see such events as his ruin. Given that she measures the utility of justice by the profit it brings, she cannot accept death as a profit since it ends the very life that is to be enriched by those profits. On
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her account, then, we cannot understand the death of Socrates as anything but Socrates’ failure. As Phillips notes, a person who is concerned with justice may understand that to choose life may be to compromise one’s values; ‘disaster for him would be to be found wanting in the face of death … Mrs. Foot cannot give an account of anyone who sees death as a good, who dies for the sake of justice. She can only give an account of someone who dies as the result of justice’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 116). Following Kierkegaard, Phillips suggests that the means-ends distinction that Foot employs is entirely mistaken as a method for understanding morality. Foot’s position negates the possibility of an individual’s being morally conflicted: it must always be possible to specify what would constitute a clash between one’s moral beliefs and one’s desires. If one provides a non-moral reason for moral action, whether it be pleasure, happiness, or profit, as long as the pleasure, happiness or profit envisaged is one’s own, such a clash is inconceivable. This is true of any attempt to explain moral conduct as a means to some personal end. One must distinguish between moral beliefs and the expedient use of moral beliefs (Phillips, 1992, p. 119).
Thus, Foot’s attempt to describe the nature of the good fails, because her focus on the end of ‘moral’ behavior illustrates behavior which is not moral at all. If I live a good life because I believe it pays to do so, I am no different than a citizen of Hobbes’ commonwealth. ‘Mrs. Foot says that justice is profitable,’ writes Phillips, ‘but that has nothing to do with morality. If injustice were profitable, she would have to advocate pursuing it’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 120). And of course, we don’t have to imagine that injustice is profitable—we see the wicked prosper before our very eyes. So we still have not found an answer to our question, ‘Why be good?’ It is obvious that living a just life can lead one to his death, and we are told that the just man sees that death itself as a good. Are we supposed to honor such a man, or is he not rather just another dead idiot led astray by death-obsessed rhetoric? How can we trust the judgment that his death (my death) may be a good in any circumstance? Religious Trust So it still looks as if a life of injustice might just provide a payoff, but Peter Geach argues, against Foot, that the odds are always in favor of a just life. Injustice never pays because death is not the final bell sounding the end of the game. The final judgment of the utility of justice is only made after death and it makes sense to trust those who exhort a life of justice because God’s punishment of the unjust is certain. Like Hobbes, Geach argues that God’s power is the rational basis for worship, that fear of divine power is the rational basis for obedience to God’s laws, and that ‘gratitude for God’s benefits would not be a sufficient ground for unreserved
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obedience if it were severed from fear of God’s irresistible power’. Living the just life, in other words, is only rational in light of God’s enormous power. Foot’s argument is not enough. On her view, it usually pays to be just in the long run, but it there can be no guarantee. Justice does not necessarily pay off. Foot thinks that the costs of an unjust life are too high, but if one is very powerful—as powerful, say, as Stalin—the unjust life is certainly the better way to go given that one is seeking wealth and power. If a Stalin comes to power as a result of having chosen an unjust life from the outset (not, as it were, from merely one immoral choice), we have even more reason to question Foot’s argument. But whatever powers a Stalin might exert here on earth, he is no match for the almighty, and if Stalin inspires fear in the hearts of his subjects, and thus obedience, how much greater the fear inspired by Omnipotence? It is certainly not rational to disobey such power. Geach writes, ‘That fear is an ultimate suasion.’ Since it is Providence that brings us rewards and punishments, it does not make sense to try to weigh the potential benefits of doing wrong against the punishment we will receive for committing that wrong. It is only by being in good moral standing with God that we can hope to obtain reward and avoid punishment. On this understanding, there are no freeloaders with respect to God’s law, no matter how powerful those cheaters may think themselves, since even a magic ring cannot make one invisible to the one who sees all. That people do seem to freeload, since the wicked seem to prosper, is ‘a sort of miracle or mystery’, an act of God’s ‘gratuitous mercy, on whose continuance the sinner has no reason to count’ (Geach, p. 129). Geach’s purpose in his essay ‘The Moral Law and the Law of God’ is to show that while knowledge of divine law is not necessary for moral knowledge, since the knowledge that lying is wrong is independent of any revelation, knowledge of divine law is necessary ‘in order to see that we must not do evil that good may come’, and that ‘accepting or rejecting this principle makes an enormous difference to one’s moral code’ (Geach, p. 120). In other words, knowledge of God’s law is necessary to see the utility of moral behavior; however, in the previous chapter we saw that where a ‘purposive conception of morality or justice is at work’ it becomes ‘impossible to articulate proper moral concepts’ (Edelman, p. 53). Thus, the upshot of Geach’s argument is that knowledge of God is necessary in order to show the inapplicability of moral concepts. This is not what Geach set out to do, but in spite of this, one must agree that Geach is right to suggest that one’s moral code will be affected by this knowledge of God, since this knowledge nullifies one’s moral behavior! However, the problems with Geach’s essay are not limited to his conception of morality, since, more importantly, Geach is arguing for a certain conception of religious belief that fails. Geach begins with a discussion of the position he will take in his article: he does not agree with many philosophers who, since the time of Plato, he states, have argued that belief in God is not necessary for moral knowledge. However, Geach will also disagree with certain Christians who believe all judgments of value depend upon knowledge of God. Addressing the former position, he recalls Plato’s Euthyphro where the title character is a prosecutor in a trial against his own father,
Trusting Others, Trusting God
accused of murdering a peasant. Euthyphro is afraid that the gods will punish him if he defends a murderer, but Socrates is shocked that anyone would impeach his own father for the murder of a simple peasant. According to Geach, the question at hand is as relevant to modern monotheists as to the ancient Greeks: ‘whether a man’s moral code ought to be influenced in this way by beliefs about Divine commands’ (Geach, p. 119). The Christian position, that knowledge of God is logically necessary for morality, is easily dismissed by Geach. He points out that lying is considered bad in all cultures, and insists that, logically, the moral precept that lying is bad cannot possibly rest upon revelation. He explains that our knowledge that lying is wrong is, in fact, a test that demonstrates whether or not a revelation is true. Gods who lie, he insists, are worthless gods, but further, ‘a revelation destroys its own credibility if it is admitted to come from deities or from a prophet who may lie’. Geach concludes that knowledge of the divine is not a necessary requirement for ‘any moral knowledge’, but he adds, ‘we do need it in order to see that we must not do evil that good may come’, where ‘not doing evil that good may come’ refers to ‘certain sorts of act [that] are such bad things to do that they must never be done to secure any good or avoid any evil’ (Geach, p. 120). Geach sets out to prove that the principle of not doing evil that good may come logically relies on belief in God. He notes that it is psychologically possible to hold the principle without that belief, but that it is logically inconsistent to do so. Using the example of adultery, he says that one must weigh the costs and benefits of committing adultery, where costs and benefits are a measure of what the would-be adulterer will gain, or will not gain, if she is to commit the act. Why should I refrain from breaking God’s law requires an answer generated from a selfinterested cost-benefit analysis. Geach writes, ‘only such a reply is relevant and rational’. In other words, the answer to ‘Why shouldn’t I commit adultery?’ is that it pays not to, and utility is the final measure of the rationality of moral behavior. Geach dismisses a Kantian answer to the question, viz., an appeal to one’s sense of duty. He characterizes this appeal as a case in which the moral must, as in, ‘you must not commit adultery’, has a certain psychological impact on the hearer that may actually be effective in preventing some acts of adultery. However, Geach writes, ‘as we know, a totalitarian regime can make a man “apprehend” all sorts of things as “obligations”, if Providence does not specially protect him’. For Geach, the problem is that while such psychological appeal may work, it ‘is no rational answer at all’ (Geach, pp. 121–2). Geach agrees with Phillipa Foot’s argument that any rational person will choose to cultivate the virtues as habits that will aid her success in life. Again the emphasis is on the utility of morality. Geach writes, ‘to choose to lack a virtue would be to choose a maimed life, ill-adapted to this difficult and dangerous world’ (Geach, p. 122). He adds that one cannot decide to act virtuously only when circumstances are favorable, since that would mean that one has not in fact cultivated the virtues at all. The virtuous person, Geach believes, must rule out any unjust acts in advance, since acting unjustly may cause those carefully cultivated habits of virtue to crumble.
Religious Trust and Utility
However, Geach allows that the virtuous person might be called upon to give up his moral integrity for the sake of others. He believes that Divine commands should be the guiding factor in how one decides to act at this point. Wondering whether God has deemed certain acts to be absolutely forbidden, Geach notes that an individual can know of the ‘general undesirability’ of certain practices, such as adultery or lying; but we cannot know God’s will in any clear and complete way. He therefore suggests that the rationally derived principles that certain practices are ‘generally undesirable’ must indeed be correct transmissions of Divine law which absolutely forbids such practices, since it does not make theological sense that God would absolutely forbid people to commit certain acts, but fail to make that proscription known. This must be true, Geach adds, regardless of whether one knows that something has been absolutely forbidden by God, and regardless of whether or not one believes in God. Once more Geach appeals to the example of lying: Lying is recognized as generally unacceptable by all human beings. This does not mean that an individual must believe that lying is absolutely forbidden in all circumstances, but he must realize the general prohibition against lying. Further, a person, through rational means, can come to see that this general prohibition is actually a divine law prohibiting lying in all circumstances. This is possible on Geach’s understanding as Geach insists that man’s natural reason is a source of divine revelation and cites Hobbes’ dictum, ‘God declareth his world by the dictates of natural reason.’ Thus a believer can, through the use of his reason, come to see that those behaviors that his reason tells him are bad are actually strictly forbidden by divine law. Once he recognizes that divine law has absolutely forbidden certain behaviors, it is ‘insane’ to ask why he should obey. A defiance of an Almighty God is insane: it is like trying to cheat a man to whom your whole business is mortgaged and who you know is well aware of your attempts to cheat him, or again, as the prophet said, it is as if a stick tried to beat, or an axe to cut, the very hand that was wielding it. Nebuchadnezzar had it forced on his attention that only by God’s favour did his wits hold together from one end of a blasphemous sentence to another—and so he saw that there was nothing for him but to bless and glorify the King of Heaven, who is able to abase those who walk in pride (Geach, pp. 126–7).
Geach is aware that other philosophers will balk at his argument, insisting God must be good if we are to love God and that Geach’s ‘attitude is plain powerworship’. He replies that it is, in fact, power-worship, but, and this makes all the difference, ‘it is worship of the Supreme power’. Geach states that God’s power is ‘wholly different from’ earthly powers, which cannot compete with God. ‘An earthly potentate does not compete with God, even unsuccessfully; he may threaten all manner of afflictions, but only from God’s hands can any affliction actually come to us. If we fully realize this, we shall have such fear of God that destroys all earthly fear’ (Geach, p. 127).
Trusting Others, Trusting God
To those who wonder if they may find it necessary to tarnish their moral integrity because they, in following one divine law, find they must break another, Geach says that should give up their worrying because God does not command what is impossible to do. In other words, God, according to Geach, will ensure that it will never come about that an individual will actually have to choose between two forbidden actions. This is good news, since, ‘neither reason nor revelation warrants the idea that God is at all likely to be lenient with those who presumptuously disobey his law because of the way they have worked out the respective consequence of obedience and disobedience’ (Geach, p. 129). For those who see that the wicked do prosper in this world and, thus, still doubt that it pays to be good, Geach states that such prosperity is fleeting, while the fact that the wicked prosper is ‘a sort of miracle or mystery’. He reasons that since the world exists solely for God’s pleasure, the world should operate in such a way as to frustrate the actions of those who try to thwart God’s will. ‘If things are not at present like this, that is only a gratuitous mercy, on whose continuance the sinner has no reason to count’ (Geach, p. 129). I am not sure what Geach means by ‘earthly powers’ if belief in God is to alleviate fear of that power. The believer may see earthly leaders as tools of God’s will. Attila was called the scourge of God, and believing this, is one not more likely to fear Attila than one would if one did not believe in this way? Furthermore, a believer might see Hitler as a successful competitor to God, since Hitler was able to turn average people into ruthless murderers. The problem with Geach’s explanation of God’s power is that he makes that power ‘wholly different’ in degree, but not in kind. Augustine believed that God makes all rational thought possible. That power surely differs in kind from the power of earthly leaders. As D. Z. Phillips writes in Death and Immortality, Geach makes no distinction between the type of power that God possesses and the type of power that earthly leaders possess. Further, the point that Geach is trying to make is that earthly leaders only think that they are powerful, because power only really belongs to God. Phillips writes, God and the powers of the world seem to be playing the same game, but only God ever wins. The good towards which loving God aims is, apparently, one which all men want, and one which can be used to measure belief in God against other conflicting beliefs. But what is the common measure Geach has in mind? Does not searching for such a common measure obscure the fact that there is a tension, a radical opposition, between the ways of God and the ways of the world? There are occasions when there is a clash between what the world calls disaster and what the believers call disaster. This is not because the worldlyminded are miscalculating, while the godly are calculating properly. On the contrary, the point is that different things are called disastrous because different conceptions of disaster are involved (Phillips, 1970, p. 37).
Geach then mischaracterizes religious belief, for the love of God is not inspired by fear of earthly misfortunes extended into the afterlife or by the earthly benefits
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one stands to gain in heaven. Phillips notes that Geach ‘is searching for a notion of ultimate vindication which all men can recognize, but the search is a futile one’. Many people do ask God for earthly rewards for their good behavior, and seeing that no such rewards are forthcoming, they then decide that there is no point in following God’s law. As Phillips notes, ‘Given their motives, there is no point.’ He continues, ‘It is only when a man has become absorbed by the love of God that he ceases to ask such questions, not because he is sure of his profit, but because profit has nothing to do with the character of his love’ (Phillips, 1970, p. 38). It is not that a believer cannot enumerate the benefits of faith, but those benefits will not be the cause of her faith, and they will not likely be the same benefits a non-believer is looking for when he asks whether it pays to believe in God. We have already seen how characterizing morality in terms of utility fails to describe the nature of morality. Hobbes, Foot, and Geach are all guilty of this. But Hobbes and Geach take this further into the realm of the religious and make belief in God rational on the grounds of God’s omnipotence. In this way they also fail to describe the nature of religious belief. Worship or Prudence? I believe that what Geach leaves us with is not worship of God, but mere prudence. Geach’s explanation of faith as paying off leaves him unable to see certain moral and religious possibilities that are integral to a complete understanding of faith. In order to explore this idea further, I want to return to Peter Winch’s criticisms of the view of morality as a guide to action in his article, ‘Moral Integrity’. Winch points out the strangeness of thinking that morality is supposed to help us around obstacles when in fact those obstacles would not exist if it were not for morality in the first place. The idea that morality is a guide for action prompts the question, asked by both Foot and Geach, ‘What advantage does morality bring?’ Winch suggests that the very form of the question leads one to look for a foundation of morality that is exterior to morality itself. In essence, the question leads us to a valuation, not of morality for the sake of morality, but for some other advantage—personal gain, for example. Winch rightly points out that this makes the connection between morality and its advantages merely contingent. If morality is not the best route to gain this advantage, morality will have to be abandoned. Winch’s understanding of morality involves not merely what choice a person will make given moral choices, but rather also what she will take to be her choices. While moral philosophers tend to focus on the choice she makes, there may be more to be learned from examining what choices she understands to be genuine alternatives, as well as the reasons she takes into consideration when making her choice. Like Geach, Winch rejects Kant’s moral theory. Winch writes, ‘Kant has insisted that the good will is the only thing of which a corrupt case cannot be found. My argument is that his attempt to give positive criteria of the good will in terms of maxims regarded as universally valid laws of conduct is incompatible
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with that initial intention.’ Against Kant, Winch cites an example found in Simone Weil’s writings, in which a father is playing with his children for the sheer joy it brings him, rather than out of a sense of duty. On Kant’s system, this situation has no moral value as it is not a case of acting from ‘practical reason’, but rather from ‘inclination’. Winch compares this situation to one in which a father is unable to enjoy playing with his children, but does so only out of his duty as a father. Winch writes, ‘May he not quite well regard his relative lack of spontaneity, visà-vis the father in Simone Weil’s example, as a moral failing? Can he not, without confusion, regard himself as ‘a worse man’ than the other (Winch, p. 181)’? It is also important to note here that the type of failing this man commits is a moral failing; on Kant’s account, he would have to label that failing as an aesthetic one. Another example Winch offers to counter the idea that morality is a guide to conduct is based on a film titled Violent Saturday. The film portrays a religious community whose values include non-violence. ‘At the climax of the film one of the gangsters is about to shoot a young girl member of the community in the presence of the community’s elder. With horror and doubt on his face, the elder seizes a pitchfork and hurls it into the gangster’s back.’ Geach writes that a rational God would not force someone to make a choice between two evils, but this is precisely what happens to the elder. Winch insists that a Kantian position must view the elder as having to make a decision in which either the principle of nonviolence is given up or is softened in order to accommodate the necessity of violent action. Winch believes that a clue to the mistake made by the view of morality as a guide to conduct is found in the fact that the elder believes that his killing the gangster is morally wrong. Further, what makes that killing wrong for the elder is precisely his conviction in the principle of non-violence. Winch writes, The whole point of this principle, in the context of the religious life of the community, would be lost is it were thought of as subject to qualification in this way; and the life of the community still represents the elder’s highest ideal—so that he cannot be thought of a having abandoned the principle. But … it is equally clear that the elder would think that in some sense he ‘had no choice’ in the situation. That is how he had to act and if he had acted differently he would not have been able to forgive himself. … my whole point is that there is no room for the notion of ‘the right thing to do’ in such a situation and that this shows again that morality is wrongly conceived as a guide to conduct (Winch, pp. 185–6).
If we try to see the elder in Winch’s example from the perspective of Geach’s position, we will be forced to see a very different individual than the one portrayed by Winch. Geach writes that a rational God would not force a man to choose between forbidden actions. If the elder in the example believed thus, he would have to see one of the alternatives—killing the gangster or allowing the girl to be killed—as morally right (or at least not morally wrong, not strictly forbidden).
Religious Trust and Utility
The elder would then have to be the type of individual for whom his so-called highest principle, non-violence, is one which can be abandoned. In other words, non-violence is not his ‘highest’ principle. (There can be no talk of ‘highest’ and ‘principles’ on Geach’s account, barring the principle of self-interest.) If the elder is fundamentally concerned with his own moral integrity, as Geach understands moral integrity, that is, if he is concerned finally with whether he will be punished by God if he does the wrong thing, then it is possible that allowing the gangster to kill the girl was in fact the right thing to do. The doubt on the man’s face can only be understood, from Geach’s perspective, as uncertainty concerning whether the man should profit most from allowing the girl to be killed, or from killing the gangster himself. Given that man’s moral beliefs are ‘promulgations’ of God’s laws which strictly forbid certain actions, the elder, believing violence to be wrong and being ultimately concerned with his own reward and punishment, must choose to let the girl die. His concerns about God’s laws would amount to prudence. But that is not the man portrayed in Winch’s example. I imagine the elder must come to terms with his actions, and, if he believes that God is a merciful God, he may come to believe that what he did was in fact wrong; that the alternative, too, was wrong; and that, in spite of this, he may be forgiven. But Geach’s position precludes the idea of a merciful God. He had explained why the wicked prosper as due to God’s ‘gratuitous mercy’, which is ‘a sort of miracle or mystery’, and on which the sinner cannot rely. Geach’s reference to ‘a gratuitous mercy’ suggests that there is mercy which is not gratuitous, but is won by some kind of merit. This certainly stretches the very concept of mercy. That God is merciful, that there is mercy, is itself a mystery and a miracle. Geach takes the mystery out of mercy when he suggests that God’s rewards are based upon merit, and makes any sort of gratuitous mercy seem the action of a capricious God. Taken further, we no longer have a basis for trust in God at all. We can rely on His punishment, but that is all. Geach cannot account for mercy because he rules out God’s love. He makes fear the basis for all ‘worship’, and, as a result, what we are left with is not worship at all. If I tell my father I love him because he will hit me if I do not, then my words of love are empty. ‘My words fly up, my thoughts remain below, Words without thoughts never to heaven go’ (Claudius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, Scene III). Geach’s position is truly one of power worship, and he fails to see that power worship is a corruption of the worship of God. Rush Rhees imagines explaining God to someone who has no idea of what religion is. Could you do it in this way?—By proving to him that there must be a first cause—a Something —[that] is more powerful (whatever this means) than anything else: so that you would not have been conceived or born at all but for the operation of Something, and Something might wipe out the existence of everything at any time? Would this give him any sense of the wonder and glory
As quoted in Peter Winch, ‘Can a Good Man be Harmed?’, p. 194.
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of God? Would he not be justified if he answered, ‘What a horrible idea! Like a Frankenstein without limits, so that you cannot escape it. The most ghastly nightmare! … If my first and chief reason for worshipping God had to be a belief that a super-Frankenstein would blast me to hell if I did not, then I hope I should have the decency to tell this being, who is named Almighty God, to go ahead and blast.’
From Geach’s position, Rhees’s response can only be judged to be irrational. D. Z. Phillips writes, ‘Is it not because he [Geach] assumes that since a regard for decency must pay in the end, what pays in the end must be regarded as decent? Belief in decency or belief in God must be vindicated in the end.’ Geach mentions Nebuchadnezzar, who has knowledge of God’s existence forced upon him. Phillips writes that the change that Nebuchadnezzar undergoes is envisioned by Geach as, ‘nothing more than the change in a man who comes to realize that he backed the wrong horse. It is not a change of character at all. … Geach depicts the believer’s reasons for believing in God in the same way—as a balancing of prudential policies’ (Phillips, 1970, p. 35). Simone Weil writes, ‘To say to Christ as Saint Peter did: “I will always be faithful to thee”, is to deny him already, for it is to suppose that the source of fidelity is in ourselves and not in grace.’ Geach cannot account for Weil’s statement. God’s punishment is certain; we can rely on it. However, faith has no place, since God does not inspire faith, but only fear. Followers of Geach’s God are themselves the only possible source of fidelity, but that fidelity is a matter of whether the individual can always be assured that she is acting rightly. Her motivation of self-interest is without question, thus the only remaining question is whether she can always know God’s will. Her moral failing is thus equivalent to her rational failing—God has not provided human beings with perfect moral knowledge. St. Peter’s denial is a denial of the weakness of the human abilities, but it is not a denial of the power of grace. Winch discusses Kierkegaard’s concept of patience, and the idea of willing the good. Willing the good is seeing an absolute moral limit to one’s actions, so that whatever the situation, whatever the possible gain or loss, one still could not commit such an action. For Kierkegaard, one’s life has meaning and integrity only to the extent that one observes this moral limit. In contrast to willing the good is what Kierkegaard calls ‘double-mindedness’. The double-minded person is unable to achieve unity or integrity in her life. A person who wills the good, for example, may see torture as an absolute wrong so that he would never commit torture under any circumstances. The double-minded person may see torture as wrong, but if circumstances change so that, say, torturing a prisoner may lead to the whereabouts of an Osama Bin Laden, torture becomes permissible. As quoted in D. Z. Phillips, Death and Immortality, pp. 43–5. As quoted in Peter Winch, ‘Can a Good Man be Harmed?’, p. 207.
Religious Trust and Utility
This ‘double-mindedness’ seems a fitting description of the elder in the film Violent Saturday, if we take him from Geach’s point of view. From that perspective, the elder’s stance on non-violence changes because of the situation he meets with the gangster and the girl. But once again, Winch reminds us that the elder clearly does think that violence is wrong at the same time he kills the gangster. That the elder’s position on violence is a moral one, not a merely prudential one, can be brought out by something Winch says about Rush Rhees: In his treatment of what Wittgenstein says about the ‘absolute’ character of ‘You ought to want to behave better’, Rhees remarks (a) that this would be said in connection with what the person addressed had done in these particular circumstances; but (b) that the speaker would be claiming that the significance of the behaviour in question ‘goes beyond’ those particular circumstances. Expanding the meaning of the phrase ‘goes beyond’ here, Rhees says the matter under discussion isn’t something trivial for the speaker; it ‘goes deep’ for him: and this will be shown both by the nature of the occasion on which it is said and by the behaviour and demeanour of the speaker which surrounds that occasion (Winch, p. 204).
It is not the case that the elder either holds the principle of non-violence or does not hold it. The principle of non-violence ‘goes deep’. It goes beyond particular circumstances, even these unfortunate circumstances. Winch also notes that ‘Kierkegaard would say that what this man says is the expression of an attitude he has to life as a whole, or a relation he has to eternity. Moreover … such a “relation to eternity” can only manifest itself in extended time, in how a man lives his life’ (Winch, p. 205). This is at the heart of Kierkegaard’s concept of patience, where patience is the willingness to accept unavoidable suffering. This type of patience is paradoxical because while the acceptance is voluntary, the suffering is inevitable. One might think of Geach’s believers as the embodiment of Kierkegaardian patience, but this would be wrong. Geach’s believers voluntarily choose to submit to unavoidable suffering because they accept the suffering which comes from being denied the pleasures of an unjust life; however, they are ultimately acting only to avoid a greater suffering—the punishment of an angry God. Because avoiding punishment is their ultimate goal, these believers cannot embody Kierkegaardian patience. Geach’s concept of faith leaves no room for God’s love and mercy. Believing in God and obeying God’s commandments are merely prudent acts, securing reward and avoiding punishment from the ‘Author of all benefits’. At the beginning of this chapter I cited Hobbes, who believed that prayer and thanksgiving are motivated purely (and most fittingly) by the benefit gained from those acts. Geach does not stray from this. His understanding of the rationality of faith is found only in faith’s utility. A believer may be able to tell you the benefits she gains from faith in God, but it is not that benefit which inspires her faith.
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References Edelman, John (1990), An Audience for Moral Philosophy? St. Martin’s Press, New York. Foot, Phillipa (1978), ‘Moral Beliefs’, in Virtues and Vices, Blackwell, Oxford. Geach, Peter (1969), ‘The Moral Law and the Law of God’, in God and the Soul, Schocken Books, New York. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (1651), edited and with introduction by C. B. MacPherson (1981), Penguin, New York. Phillips, D. Z. (1970), Death and Immortality, Macmillan, Glasgow. _____ (1992), ‘Does It Pay to Be Good?’, in Interventions in Ethics, State University of New York Press, Albany. Winch, Peter (1972), ‘Can a Good Man Be Harmed?’, in Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. _____ (1972), ‘Moral Integrity’, in Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Trusting Others: Suspicion
Criminals, not moral philosophers, have been the experts at discerning different forms of trust.— Annette Baier, ‘Trust and Antitrust’ Might trust itself be pathological?—Annette Baier, Moral Prejudices
Annette Baier has aimed for a moral theory appropriate to feminist concerns, and grounds that theory on the concept of trust. In ‘What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory?’ she writes that an adequate moral theory must include notions of ‘appropriate trustworthiness, appropriate trustingness, appropriate encouragement to trust’, along with ‘judicious untrustworthiness, selective refusal to trust, [and] discriminating discouragement of trust’. Moreover, she defines trust in terms of risk: ‘To trust is to make oneself or to let oneself be more vulnerable than one might have been to harm from others—to give them an opportunity to harm one, in the confidence that they will not take it, because they have no good reason to.’ She asks why anyone would trust another, given the risk it involves and given our inability to see through the motivations of the people we trust. Baier writes that the best reason to trust another and make oneself vulnerable is ‘the expected gain in security which comes from a climate of trust, then in trusting we are always giving up security to get greater security, exposing our throats so that others will become accustomed to not biting’. The reasonableness of taking the risk is measured by the ultimate goal of promoting a climate of trust. Baier suggests that this could work as a categorical imperative in a moral theory grounded in trust. At first glance, this portrayal of human nature is reminiscent of Hobbes’ natural state of mankind—security is sought in a world where we are exposed to the teeth of others who wish to bite us; but while Hobbes’ solution was to force peace and commerce through the might of the sovereign, Baier advocates peace through habit. Both solutions require risk: for Hobbes, the initial laying down of arms in order to make a covenant; for Baier the exposing of one’s throat in order that ‘others will become accustomed to not biting’. In spite of sharing a rather bleak view of human nature, there is at least one marked difference between these philosophers: Baier’s rejection of the contract model of trust and her contempt for the disparity of power that is the foundation of Hobbes’ covenant. Baier’s refutation of the contract model is most fully worked out in her article entitled, ‘Trust and Antitrust’, where one may also witness her concern for powerdisparity. In this paper, she seeks a moral theory that can serve as a guide in In Moral Prejudices, pp. 1–17.
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obligatory, often intimate, relationships where there is no equality of power, such as relationships with animals, the terminally ill, and children. She wants to be able to judge when the trust between people is healthy and when it is abusive. To this end, she first examines everyday trust relationships, attempts a preliminary definition of trust and shows the shortcomings of prior models of trust, in particular that of the contract. She then provides an example from which she formulates a test for the morality of a given trust relationship. Baier’s article provides an effective analysis of the concept of trust, but, far from thoroughly exorcizing the inadequacies of the contract model, retains its more dangerous fault: her attempt to show when trust is reasonable mires her in instrumentalism and fails to elucidate our everyday trust relationships, the upshot being an inability to account for moral trust. Baier’s further work helps to correct some of these shortcomings, but her absorption in the issue of power and her motivation to establish equality between trusting individuals leads her in the wrong direction. Underlying her definition of trust is a suspicion which itself undercuts her account of trust. She is suspicious not only of human nature, but of trust itself. I want to look first at Baier’s ‘Trust and Antitrust’ in order to examine her account of trust and its evident instrumentalism and the trouble that arises in virtue of her focus on notions of risk, power and equality before moving on to Baier’s idea of building a climate of trust through habit. She seeks a fundamental, natural virtue of cooperation upon which a climate of trust, hence a moral theory, can be built. Limits of the Contract Model of Trust Annette Baier laments that moral philosophers are not likely to be very helpful concerning matters of trust, since philosophy has paid little attention to the notion of trust. Since trust relationships can be either moral or immoral it is the job of the moral philosopher to examine the forms of trust that promote morality as well as the morality of various forms of trust. Analysis of trust is necessary, not only because we must determine what forms of trust are beneficial, but also because trust relationships are prevalent in human society. Baier notes the oddity of the lack of philosophical discussion of trust among the great philosophers of history, given that all cooperative activity exhibits and requires some form of trust. Some have given honorable mention to trust (Plato and Aristotle are examples) but by and large philosophers have taken its existence for granted without proper examination. Some have studied only narrow aspects of trust, such as Locke’s discussion of political trust and Christian philosophers’ discussions of trust in God. What is worse than the neglect of trust as a subject of philosophical inquiry, Baier believes, is the method of understanding trust in the few cases where trust has been examined: when attention has been paid to trust between individuals, the model employed for understanding trust has overwhelmingly been that of a contract. The contract model, she insists, focuses on non-intimate relationships between equals, and thus fails to illuminate many of the relationships that we engage in when we
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trust another. What all of this amounts to, Baier claims, is ‘selective attention’ to the concept of trust, and it is her intention to begin rectifying that oversight in ‘Trust and Antitrust’. In this paper, Baier gives a preliminary definition of trust as ‘reliance on another’s good will, perhaps minimal good will’. On her account then, trust begins as a species of reliance. Mere reliance, however, can coincide with a malevolent attitude towards another; reliance is merely dependence on another’s habits, fear, anger, and so on, even upon another’s ill will. Since trust, in contrast to reliance, is dependence on another’s good will, it inevitably gives the trusted the opportunity to harm the truster, while it shows the truster’s confidence that the other will not seize that opportunity. Trust relationships entered into intentionally, Baier writes, must include awareness of this confidence and of the possibility that the other may harm one. For trust to be reasonable, then, she insists that it ‘will require good grounds for such confidence in another’s good will, or at least the absence of good grounds for expecting their ill will or indifference’. With that acknowledgment, her ‘first approximation’ of trust is ‘accepted vulnerability to another’s possible but not expected ill will (or lack of good will) toward one’ (Baier, 1986, p. 235; my emphasis). Baier insists that trust must involve an expectation (though not necessarily a conscious expectation) of good will, or at least of ‘minimal good will’. But why is it that trust cannot be based simply on a lack of ill will? What does Baier mean by ‘minimal good will’? The example that she gives at this point in the text is the question of whether we can trust that the food on the shelves at the local grocery is safe to eat. She states that even after some of the food is found to have been intentionally poisoned, we can still rely on the food’s safety. This is because we can rely on the security guards that have been posted to keep would-be poisoners from contaminating the food on the shelves; and we can rely on the shopkeeper to take necessary and effective precautions against poisoners out of concern for his profits. We can do these things without trusting the guards or the shopkeeper. Baier adds that we may also trust the shopkeeper ‘to want his customers not to be harmed by his products, at least as long as this want can be satisfied without frustrating his wish to increase his profits’ (Baier, 1986, p. 234). Baier uses the example of the poisoned food in order to show that trust and reliance can be mixed; however, it does not seem that the shopkeeper in the above example is trustworthy in Baier’s sense. Certainly we may rely on his desire for profit as a motivation for effective precautions, but it seems unlikely that we would consider a shopkeeper such as this to be trustworthy. We trust that he does not wish us harm, Baier tells us, at least as long as this want can be satisfied without frustrating his wish to increase his profits. If the condition of increasing profits is not met, does this then entail that the shopkeeper will wish us harm? Is this what Baier means by ‘minimal good will’? If the shopkeeper’s only motivation to our well-being is his or her profits, then this, too, is a case of reliance—our well-being is a mere means to the shopkeeper’s profit. The shopkeeper is reliable, but not trustworthy, not even in a minimal sense. Here we have a glimpse of the instrumentalism that persists in Baier’s work.
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Returning to her critique of the contract model of trust, Baier asks what the cause of the oversight is, the ‘selective attention’, devoted to trust by the great moral philosophers. She gives two answers: The first has to do with the very nature of trust relationships, namely, that the presence of trust is subtle. We do not notice trust because the sheer variety of forms of trust is pervasive in our lives. We trust acquaintances and strangers, friends and enemies. ‘We trust our enemies not to fire at us when we lay down our arms and put out a white flag … we often trust total strangers such as those from whom we ask directions in foreign cities.’ Baier notes that the variety of forms of trust that we exhibit every day is considerable: we trust intimate friends and total strangers; we put our lives in the hands of pilots, cab drivers and doctors; we fall asleep on trains. In other words, trust is so much a part of our lives that it has become invisible to us. What is more, the thing that most often illuminates trust is its violation. Baier remarks, ‘We inhabit a climate of trust as we inhabit an atmosphere and notice it as we notice air, only when it becomes scarce or polluted’ (Baier, 1986, p. 234). Our trust that day-care centers keep our children safe and happy while we are at work has been shattered by multiple reports of the molestation of children by day-care providers. Deaths by poisoned Tylenol capsules have destroyed our trust that the products on the shelves at the corner drugstore are safe. We are reminded of this with every ‘safety seal’ we open. For now, we rely on those safety seals to function properly, but it seems that some aspect of our trust (our innocence?) has been lost forever. The second reason Baier gives for the ‘selective attention’ paid to the notion of trust by philosophers has to do not with the concept of trust, but with the philosophers themselves. Relationships between non-intimates of equal power are the norm, she writes, for adult males whose relationships are primarily business or social dealings with other men of similar stature. Such relationships, claims Baier, are the type in which the ‘great moral philosophers’ participated. With few exceptions, these philosophers are, for Baier, ‘a collection of gays, clerics, misogynists, and puritan bachelors’. Their dealings with other human beings were cold, dispassionate, and involved little risk. In addition, these men participated in a system that oppressed and exploited women through ‘unequal, nonvoluntary, and non-contract-based relationships’ (Baier, 1986, pp. 248–9). Their exposure to forms of trust other than contractarian trust was minimal. One may agree or not with Baier’s characterization of the ‘great moral philosophers’, and with her claim that their lack of equality-based relationships with women have led these philosophers to use a contract-model of trust. (Baier sometimes writes as if the goal of trust is equality; sometimes as if trust can only exist where equality already exists.) What is not easy to dispute, however, is that modern moral philosophy has in fact focused on the contract (social as well as individual) as the exemplar of the trusting relationship. Baier’s goal in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ is to assess trust relationships from a moral point of view so that we may know when trust is, or is not, a relationship worthy of protecting. This requires that we move beyond the contract model of trust. The difficulty with the contract model, Baier believes, is that the contract is in fact a highly specialized form of trust, what
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she calls ‘a limit case’. Contracts are highly explicit, both in the specification of what is entrusted and in the exacting of damages and/or penalties if the contract is violated. This form of trust relationship is one in which ‘fewer risks are taken, for the sake of lesser goods’ (Baier, 1986, p. 250). We do not have a contract with the stranger on the street who gives us directions, but that does not mean that we do not trust his directions. The highly visual relationship of a contract obscures the more subtle trust relationships that we participate in on a daily basis. The same criticism applies to promising as a model of trust relationships, she writes. Promises involve very specific ideas of what is being promised. Contracts and promises share the common characteristic that they can be agreed upon consciously and at will. The same is true for the type of trust relationship described by Locke’s ‘entrusting’ model. But most of our trust relationships do not share this characteristic. Baier writes that trust relationships most often start not as the result of some conscious decision to trust; rather, these relationships tend to grow slowly and subtly. There is no set mechanism for the start of a trust relationship. It may come out of the blue. And these various relationships exhibit various degrees of awareness, intent, and definition. The trust between an infant and its parents is an example. Infant trust, Baier writes, is the basis for all other forms of trust. ‘Some degree of innate, if selective, trust seems a necessary element in any surviving creature whose first nourishment … comes from another, and this innate but fragile trust could serve as the explanation both of the possibility of other forms of trust and of their fragility.’ Infant trust is the ‘essential seed’ of more mature trust relationships: ‘infants emerge from the womb already equipped with some ur-confidence in what supports them’. The development of trust proceeds from unconscious trust to self-conscious trust, including awareness of the risks and potential gains involved. Although she sees infant trust as the basis for further forms of trust, Baier sees mature, adult trust as normative. Infant trust, in contrast, is not won through steadfastness or good will; it is simply ‘there’ until it is destroyed. She notes that the chief difficulty in trust relationships is the maintenance of trust: establishing and destroying these relationships is easy. Thus, she writes, ‘unless some form of it were innate and unless that form could pave the way for new forms, it would appear a miracle that trust ever occurs’ (Baier, 1986, pp. 242–4). Infant trust does not need to be won—true enough, but a problem crops up in Baier’s account at this point. Baier says that trust is difficult to get started; yet infant trust is innate. And infant trust, too, is not easy to destroy. Although some distrust of one’s parents may be a normal part of growing up, a basic trust in them often persists throughout adulthood. Infant trust is not as fragile as Baier would have it. One need only look at an abused child who continues to crave the love of his parents. This trust is like green wood—no matter how much it is twisted and torn, the branch does not break. In spite of her discussion of infant trust as a primitive form of trust, Baier believes that more ‘mature’ forms of trust, meaning forms of trust which include an awareness of risk and gain (and hence, including suspicion), are standard. (Later in this chapter I will address this problem more closely.) Infant trust obviously cannot be forced into the mold of
Trusting Others, Trusting God
the contract or promise. The infant enters into this relationship with her parents without consciousness; her entrance is not voluntary, for she cannot be said to be capable of making such a choice; and she has no ability to express the terms of the relationship through language or any other means. Another issue raised by infant trust is the very point of Baier’s article (and another aspect of trust relationships neglected by the great moral philosophers): Instead of focusing on relationships between equals, Baier wants to examine trust relationships between non-equals, as this is a far more common situation than the equitable relationships of contracts. Infant trust, Baier writes, gives us an extreme example of unequal power; yet, she insists, the relationship is still ‘a matter of mutual trust and mutual if unequal vulnerability. The parent’s enormous power to harm the child and disappoint the child’s trust,’ she continues, ‘is the power of ones also vulnerable to the child’s at first insignificant but ever-increasing power, including power as one trusted by the parent’ (Baier, 1986, p. 242). Baier’s definition of trust in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ is inconsistent. Instead of maintaining the idea that trust is a species of reliance, Baier reverts to mere reliance as a definition of trust. In the last section of her article, seeking a test for determining when trust relationships are morally decent, she gives an example of a relationship between spouses whose interpretations of what is best for their children are at odds. The husband trusts his wife to raise their children properly; but, while the wife wishes to raise the children free from patriarchal biases, the husband, in contrast, wants his children to grow up supporting and maintaining the patriarchal system. The wife could try to engender feminist attitudes in her children, but, knowing that the husband does not approve, she is afraid to teach them anything that her husband disallows as her husband may respond with violence. Baier writes, ‘Sensible trust could persist … in conditions where truster and trusted suspect each other of willingness to harm the other if they could get away with it, the one by breach of trust, the other by vengeful response to that’ (Baier, 1986, p. 255). One can see at once that Baier has abandoned her own definition of trust, in which trust is reliance upon good will, for this is obviously a case of mere reliance. Far from bearing each other good will, husband and wife, truster and trusted, rely on fear and coercion. Baier admits that this relationship is not a moral one, but she fails to see that it is also, on her definition, not a trust relationship. By defining trust as necessarily involving the expectation of another’s (minimal) good will, she has flavored the very definition of trust with the notion of morality. Baier perhaps senses that something has gone wrong with her example. She writes, ‘Trust is rational … in the absence of any reason to suspect in the trusted strong and operative motives which conflict with the demands of trustworthiness as the truster sees them’ (Baier, 1986, p. 254). According to Baier, if the mother in her example discovers that her husband’s trust is based upon his knowledge of her love for him and their children, she will be more willing to carry on the relationship than if she discovers that his trust is based upon her fear of him. So what Baier is saying is that the mother will more likely stay in the relationship if her husband exploits her love for him than if he exploits her fear of him. I am not
Trusting Others: Suspicion
certain that this example is helpful for understanding trust. Baier states that if the mother and father rely on elements of each other’s personality so that knowledge of what is relied upon will strengthen the relationship, the relationship is morally acceptable; but she has not provided us with a check for morally good v. morally bad trust relationships on her definition. Baier claims that her test does not revert to a contract model of trust because: (1) it avoids the assumption of self-interest by leaving the question of motives open; (2) it does not require that the conditions of trust be made explicit; and (3) it ‘requires that the trust relationship survive even when one’s reliance on the other’s particular psychological states is made explicit’ (Baier, 1986, pp. 257–8). We have already seen that Baier’s model of trust assumes that some gain will come from the relationship. She avoids the assumption of self-interest only by saying that the gain expected need not be the gain of one individual only, but a good common to both parties in the relationship, or perhaps the good of a trusting relationship for its own sake. (Of course there are definitions of self-interest that could cover this.) The problems with the test, Baier admits, are that it deals only with trust between two people, rather than, say, the dynamic of a family or an office; and it is inadequate to explain those brief encounters that comprise much of our trust relationships, such as asking a stranger for directions. Thus it fails to cover the more subtle examples of trust. Baier’s problems in this article stem from her reversion to relationships of mere reliance and the idea of trust as a species of reliance. This is related to the issue of what can be expressed in a trust relationship, and (later in this chapter) to more complex issues of language in general. One trouble spot in Baier’s article is the instrumentalist vein that runs through her conception of trust. As we have seen, her model of trust, in its mature form, involves risk as well as ‘some evaluation of what we might generally gain and … lose from the willingness to take such risk’ (Baier, 1986, p. 235). Thus, mature trust asks what one may gain from trusting. The model of trust put forth by the great moral philosophers is, for Baier, not wrong in itself. She does not criticize the instrumentalism of their contract-based model. Rather, their mistake lies in thinking that this model is complete, because their paradigm trust relationships are non-intimate relationships between adult equals. Baier labels this form of trust ‘degenerate’. But ‘degenerate’ here can only mean that this form of trust relationship is not the norm, and that it is the focus on these relationships in moral philosophy that is somehow degenerate, not that the relationships themselves are degenerate. This interpretation is not so far-fetched, for Baier’s intent in her article is a feminist criticism of trust in moral philosophy. She writes, ‘the liberal morality which takes voluntary agreement as the paradigm source of moral obligation must either exclude the women they expect to continue in their traditional role from the class of moral subjects, or admit the internal contradiction in their moral beliefs’ (Baier, 1986, p. 247). Baier’s contribution to the study of the concept of trust goes a long way toward improving previous models of trust. She makes the observation that trust relationships are often not conscious, voluntary, and explicit. She focuses on the
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issue of voluntary versus involuntary trust relationships by examining infant trust and by her example of a patriarchal marriage. But her discussion of the explicitness or inexplicitness of trust relationships is not enough. She upholds the traditional idea that trust relationships involve risk and some expectation of gain. In her discussion of the inexplicitness of trust relationships, Baier speaks as if the terms and conditions of the relationship are unexpressed and inexplicit, but seems to also say that these terms and conditions could be made explicit if the trust relationship is made conscious and is expressed. The motivation underlying this approach is a desire to predict the outcome of the trust relationship, to predict whether one will in fact gain from it, and to predict the reasonability of taking this particular risk; in other words, to allay suspicion. Expressibility is important to Baier’s concept of trust because her test for the moral decency of a trust relationship relies upon it. Her test requires knowledge of what one is relying upon. She writes, A trust relationship is morally bad to the extent that either party relies on the qualities in the other which would be weakened by the knowledge that the other relies on them. Where each relies on the other’s love, or concern for some common good, or professional pride in competent discharge of responsibility, knowledge of what the other is relying on in one need not undermine but will more likely strengthen those relied-on features (Baier, 1986, p. 256).
Thus where I rely on your weaknesses, trust is morally bad and I am essentially exploiting you. However, if I rely on your strengths, our trust relationship and those same strengths that I rely on are further enhanced by my doing so. Thus Baier writes that trust is morally virtuous only when what is entrusted in the relationship includes the knowledge of each person’s reasons for relying on the other. This knowledge, after all, is a good because it fosters, not threatens, other goods. This concept of trust is founded upon the idea of trust as ‘entrusting’; in other words, there is something more or less specific that one trusts another with in any trust relationship: the care of one’s child, sensitivity for one’s feelings, the competence to do one’s job, and so forth. But the entrusting model blurs the distinction between trust and reliance. As long as one focuses on the thing entrusted, there is some expectation involved and the relationship is in some sense instrumental. There is another aspect of trust that is neglected in Baier’s account, namely, that trust can be compatible with a lack of reliance. If I know that my partner is absent-minded, I know that I cannot rely on him to remember to pay the bills on time. But that is not the same as saying that I cannot trust him to provide for the family. If trust can be compatible with a lack of reliance, then trust cannot be a species of reliance. I want now to examine the idea of reliance in contrast to trust before looking more deeply into the problems created in Baier’s article. In Lars Hertzberg’s article, ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Hertzberg contrasts trust with the concept of mere reliance. He draws the distinction between the two concepts clearly, first by making the following points about reliance:
Trusting Others: Suspicion
• • •
Relying on someone involves making a judgment. Why I rely on someone is specific: ‘one relies on a person for particular purposes’. Judging whether or not it is reasonable to rely on someone and whether or not he or she has let me down requires an independent standard of judgment. Whether or not someone meets those standards is the condition for my relying on him or her. Reliance on a person is separate from my attitude towards him or her. Hertzberg writes, ‘reliance seems not to be, essentially an attitude towards a person. The ways in which one may rely on a tool, a measuring instrument, a horse, etc., seem to be analogous to the ways in which one may rely on people’ (Hertzberg, p. 312).
Baier conflates trust with reliance in many of her examples given in ‘Trust and Antitrust’. One aspect of reliance that is problematic is given in the second point listed above: the ‘more or less specific content’ of a relationship. Baier insists that one of the failings of the contract model is its explicitness, but she is determined to show what it is that is entrusted in a trust relationship. Whenever ‘particular purposes’ are mentioned, the relationship begins to smell of instrumentalism. I will return to this point later. I want now to look at deeper criticisms of Baier’s article, criticisms that will bear further upon the distinction of trust and reliance. Problems with the Language of Trust Olli Lagerspetz addresses Baier’s work in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ in his article titled, ‘The Notion of Trust in Philosophical Psychology’. He believes that attempts at a definition of trust will do nothing to help us understand the phenomenon of trust any better than we already do. Instead, Lagerspetz wants to ask how we use the word ‘trust’ and what that use amounts to. He asks, ‘What kinds of move do we make’? (Lagerspetz, p. 95) To that end, Lagerspetz proposes that trust is better understood, not as a mental state or psychological phenomenon, but as an attitude. Borrowing Wittgenstein’s terminology, Lagerspetz notes that mental states have ‘genuine duration’, that is, they exist for a specific time period and can ‘imaginably be interrupted by someone else’. In contrast some actions, like intending, thinking, hoping, and loving, for example, do not have genuine duration. He quotes from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations the example of ‘expecting’: We say ‘I am expecting him’, when we believe that he will come, though his coming does not occupy our thoughts. (Here ‘I am expecting him’ would mean ‘I should be surprised if he didn’t come’ and that will not be called the description of a state of mind.) But we also say ‘I am expecting him’ when it is supposed to mean: I am eagerly awaiting him. We could imagine a language in which different verbs were consistently used in these cases. And similarly more than
Trusting Others, Trusting God one verb where we speak of ‘believing’, ‘hoping’ and so on. Perhaps the concepts of such a language would be more suitable for understanding psychology than the concepts of our language (I: §577).
Thus attitudes are ‘ways in which one “takes” one’s situation’. And this can amount to different things. Expecting someone may consist in urgently waiting for him, or it may not—I might ‘simply sit there’. His coming ‘may occupy our thoughts’, or it may not. There are many different ways of expecting someone, and as Lagerspetz notes, ‘expecting’ is more descriptive of a ‘situation’ than a mental state (Lagerspetz, p. 96). The same is true for other phenomena like loving and hoping. We know that someone has love in her life, he writes, not because we have assessed her mental states and have found ‘love’ to be among them. And this is certainly not how we know that we ourselves are in love. Rather, love shows in our lives: our relationships with others, our sense of self—past and future, our willingness to make commitments, and so on. Love may also be shown in a person’s unwillingness to make commitments, to have courage, or to take on responsibilities. We can say similar things about hope. My hope for the future may be seen in my openness to possibilities, for example. What about trust? Is trust an attitude rather than a mental state? It certainly seems so. Trust does not seem to have genuine duration, for we trust people without any conscious feeling of trust. That is a part of trust’s subtlety; but there is more. Not only do we trust without any clear ‘state of mind’ associated with trusting, as Lagerspetz notes, but trust ‘seems to be characterized by the fact that certain states of mind (fear, for instance) fail to appear’. If we try to identify a ‘trusting state of mind’ we will point to indications of love, patience, hope, and so forth. Thus a ‘trusting state of mind’ seems to involve many different states of mind. ‘We have no independent description of what their common feature might be (apart from the tautologous point that they all involved trust).’ Thus it must be the case that the episodes of specific mental states cannot serve as a criterion for trust; in fact, state of mind does not seem to be an issue here. Lagerspetz notes, ‘When I trust a friend without further ado, my attitude is one of unreflecting certainty; that is not a state of mind. When I act with certainty, this should not be taken to imply that my behaviour is accompanied by a constant feeling of certainty’ (Lagerspetz, p. 97). The fact that trust is characterized by a lack of certain mental states—fear, anxiety, apprehension, for example—is important. Any positive description of trust will be difficult; and, as we have seen, Baier’s desire to give content to what is trusted is problematic. Lagerspetz’s understanding of trust, however, is more than just a concept that is empty of content. To see this, we can look at where Lagerspetz addresses Baier’s remark that we notice trust only once it has been destroyed. I quote Lagerspetz at length: As cited in Olli Lagerspetz (1997), ‘The Notion of Trust in Philosophical Psychology’, in Lilli Alanen, Sara Heināmaa and Thomas Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity, St. Martin’s Press, New York, p. 96.
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I put up a friend for the night. She sleeps in the kitchen—where the knives are! Am I now trusting her not to take one and stab me while I am asleep in bed? Say I let her sleep there as a matter of course. I would not, at that moment, characterize my attitude towards her as trustful. Of course, I do not distrust her—the issue has not been raised. Such is our normal way of acting: unless some reason is given, we do not feel we must address such questions. This, of course, is not an empirical statement but rather a point about what is meant by calling a situation ‘normal’. Here I am acting without reflection. Doubly so: I do not reflect; and if I did, I would find nothing to reflect upon (Lagerspetz, p. 98).
Lagerspetz suggests that the question, ‘Do I trust my friend not to stab me?’ would, under normal circumstances, either be dismissed (perhaps as a joke), or it would be considered ‘insane’. In other words, to ask seriously whether I ought to trust my friend not to stab me suggests my own paranoia. It is simply not a question that we typically ask, and that itself is part of what we take ‘normal circumstances’ to imply. He adds, ‘The fact that we do not normally have certain suspicions is constitutive of what we mean by sanity. The question needs a background; otherwise it is not a serious question.’ He continues, Well, do I trust my friend? If I am to address the question seriously—if I am to think it needs addressing—my perception of what I have been doing will already have to have changed. Unreflecting self-evidence will be gone … by characterizing the relation between us as trust I have now changed it. A new idea has been activated, new questions opened up. Is it reasonable of me to trust this person? Could she take advantage of me? Is she a friend? … If I present you to a friend of mine and tell you by the way that I trust him not to stab you, you will probably not feel more reassured than if told nothing at all. I am not saying that certain questions and worries would be likely to suggest themselves. Rather, paradoxically, the notion of trust is logically tied up with them (Lagerspetz, p. 98).
A similar paradox is also at work in expressions like ‘I know’ and ‘I am certain’. The grammar of such expressions ‘presupposes reasons for doubt’. In saying ‘I am certain’, I am no longer certain. I am striving for certainty. ‘The language of certainty belongs to a situation where certainty is called into question’ (Lagerspetz, p. 99). This point applies to our relations with people in general. Normally, we simply do not expect people to be out to harm us. We take their words, expressions, gestures, and actions at ‘face value’ unless there is some additional, intervening reason that tempts us not to. Lagerspetz points out that this aspect of our general relations with others is not a statistical generalization based upon some assessment of numerous encounters. Rather, it is ‘a point about what “normal” means. An expression has a “face value” because there is a normal way of taking it.’ Our use of the word ‘trust’ has its application only once we are made aware of distrust. In other words, ‘trust’ derives its meaning from deviations from the norm. We normally expect the food on the grocer’s shelves to be safe; it is only when something makes us
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aware that we should not do so that we use the word ‘trust’. Lagerspetz notes that the concept of ‘innocence’ works in a similar way. ‘Innocence’ gets its meaning because people start off as innocent but subsequently lose their innocence. This can create the illusion that trust is ‘posthumous’, that it existed and then at some point ceased to exist, like a mental state with a genuine duration. Lagerspetz sees Baier’s description of trust as entailing this illusion. Baier’s way of speaking about trust suggests that in our everyday actions like reading the newspaper, driving to work, and asking directions, we trust people without being aware that we do. At some point we may cease to trust them. The illusion that trust exists and then ceases to exist ‘is created by how we use language … The grammatical form of the phrase “I trusted N” is likely to lead the analysis in a certain direction.’ The past tense form—‘trusted’—seems to describe an activity that I performed until something led me to stop; or perhaps I had a mental state that I was unaware of until I lost it. The problem that Lagerspetz finds with this picture is that we usually do not think about N. If my friend is staying in my kitchen for the night, it is unlikely that I think about her. I may wonder if she is comfortable in the kitchen, and what I will feed her for breakfast, but I do not ponder whether or not she is trustworthy. I seem to be led to conclude that my not thinking about her trustworthiness is due to my having trusted her. ‘But then, did I or did I not trust? Surely either I did or did not?’ Lagerspetz rejects this entire view of trust as a mental state: ‘Two descriptions seem pitted against each other like two empirical theories. The law of the excluded middle seems to force a choice squarely upon us. On this view, we are trying to find out what there is … And where is ‘there’?’ (Lagerspetz, pp. 99–101). Lagerspetz rules out any appeal to the unconscious in an attempt to bolster the idea that trust is posthumous: I trusted my friend unconsciously, and was not aware of it until she let me down. That move does not work. Lagerspetz cites the example of someone saying ‘He thought the chair would hold his weight.’ This sounds like a description of a mental state. But if we examine this claim, we will most likely find that it is incorrect. It is unlikely that I sat down actually thinking about whether the chair would hold my weight. It is unlikely that I was thinking about the chair at all. This does not imply, however, that my sitting down means that I did not think that the chair would hold my weight. Yet, as Lagerspetz remarks, ‘to say, “He thought the chair would hold” seems completely natural and appropriate.’ If one tries to explain the situation by the idea of unconscious mental states, one runs into difficulties: ‘Here, of course, the only possible proof of my mental state is the fact that I did sit down.’ Since we have no further criteria, we might assume that I have the same unconscious mental state every time I sit, even in instances where the chair does not collapse; even, as Lagerspetz points out, if I am unaware that chairs can collapse. Rather than appeal to the idea of unconscious mental states, Lagerspetz suggests that ‘Life involves a multitude of routinized patterns or behaviour; at any given time, something might go wrong with them and my behaviour might, quite correctly, be explained by saying, “He thought …”.’ In
From Baier’s ‘Trust and Antitrust’, as quoted in Lagerspetz, p. 100.
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such cases, ‘Thinking … obviously has nothing to do with mental states. However, this is not to say it must be illegitimate to speak of thinking at all.’ He notes the strangeness of this claim: ‘thinking the chair will hold my weight’ amounts to thinking nothing. But the sense of strangeness arises only from a certain view of how language works, a view in which thinking and having attitudes are always viewed as the occurrences of some kind of mental state. When we examine what we mean when we say something like ‘He thought the chair would hold his weight’ or ‘I trusted her’—for that matter, when we ‘think’—we are not always referring to some mental state. ‘When I simply sat down without making assumptions, the question of the chair’s holding or not holding had not been raised. My behaviour, if you like, did not result from a thought; but nevertheless it was expressive of a thought’ (Lagerspetz, pp. 101–2). So here are two distinct uses of ‘he thought’. One use refers to a mental state while another has no referent. Both uses, Lagerspetz argues, are equally literal uses. It would be wrong to characterize ‘he thought the chair would hold his weight’ to be a metaphorical use or parasitic on the ‘mental state’ use. Lagerspetz also notes that Freud’s use of the term ‘unconscious’ differs from its use by philosophers who argue that ‘He thought the chair would hold his weight’ is a description of a mental state. Freud wanted to explain his patients’ odd behavior, but as philosophers use the term such as in the example ‘He thought the chair would hold his weight’ there is nothing particularly odd. The puzzle is a philosophical one, not a psychological one. The idea of an unconscious mental state allows the philosopher to cling to a description of language in which descriptions of thoughts and attitudes always have some referent in corresponding mental states or processes. ‘A grammatical difference between two kinds of uses of the word is masked as a difference between different degrees of consciousness.’ That expressions should describe something tangible is part of a certain view about language, one in which the meaning of words depends upon their correspondence to some recognizable piece of reality. But this view is mistaken, since ‘when we use a word it is not necessarily in order to name anything. We use words in order to cope with life in different ways. They do not have to “stand for” anything “real” in order to be meaningful’ (Lagerspetz, p. 103). Baier’s view of language leads her to make peculiar claims about trust. As we have seen, the language of trust has its place where there is suspicion and doubt. In attempting to give a positive account of a parent’s ability to harm her child, Baier suggests that the question of whether or not to abuse one’s child is a real question which presents itself to parents in general, and in turn that makes her suspect. Attempting to give positive content to an empty concept already places Baier in the realm of suspicion. In the most common cases of trust relationships, suspicion is not an issue. Baier is aware of this, at least by the time of her writing ‘Trust and Its Vulnerabilities’. In this article Baier wants to examine when trust is morally good and when it is morally bad. She portrays trust as, if not a mental state, a In Moral Prejudices.
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mental phenomenon, but she acknowledges the difficulty in such a portrayal: ‘Trust is one of those mental phenomena attention to which shows the inadequacy of attempting to classify mental phenomena into the “cognitive”, the “affective”, and the “conative”. She notes that trust seems to fall into all three of these categories, adding that trust ‘has a special “feel”, most easily acknowledged when it is missed, say, when one moves from a friendly “safe” neighborhood to a tense insecure one’. I am not sure what Baier has in mind here. It is difficult to imagine what trust ‘feels’ like, although what it feels like when trust is missed—having been betrayed, for example—does seem to classify as a feeling. Baier recognizes that the language of trust (often) signals distrust, writing, ‘Healthy trust rarely needs to declare itself, and the mere occurrence of the injunction ‘Trust me!’ or of the reminder ‘I am trusting you’ is a danger signal’ (Baier, 1994, pp. 132–3). Trust and Risk Lagerspetz next focuses on Annette Baier’s attempt at a definition of trust which makes risk a necessary part of trust: trust as ‘accepted vulnerability to another’s possible but not expected ill will’. He characterizes her definition as ‘accepted vulnerability’ which necessarily involves risk taking. It is entrusting something of value to others whose actions we cannot control. This approach to trust which writes risk into the very definition is problematic, since not only are there many cases where the risk involved in trust is minimal, but there are also many cases where talk of risk and the model of entrusting are out of place. Lagerspetz gives the following example of a young married couple: A young husband kisses his wife goodbye, but he is anxious: he knows she will be faithful. He trusts—but why is he vulnerable? The risk is that his wife may sleep with someone else. What would he, then, lose? She may infect him with something; or—to give the argument a rule-utilitarian twist—grow into the habit of breaking her promises in other occasions as well. Of course, the ‘risk’ could be all about things like that. But if that is all, then, in a way, it is really nothing. A marriage where considerations like that come to the fore is shipwrecked anyway. But on the other hand, perhaps nothing is at risk apart from fidelity itself (Lagerspetz, pp. 104–5).
What, then, is the word ‘risk’ doing here? Fidelity is not a piece of goods. You cannot use it, or sell it. It is not that we see the trust because we first recognize the dangers of disloyalty in marriage: on the contrary, we see disloyalty as a ‘risk’—a source of concern and grief—only because it is a breach of trust. To recognize this, in turn, presupposes an independent grasp of the trust involved in a marriage. The sense of the word ‘risk’ here is, then, shaped by the peculiar context. Trust is constitutive of what is involved in the ‘risk’. Trusting cannot be defined in terms of
Trusting Others: Suspicion
vulnerability and risks, since it is what creates this peculiar notion of vulnerability in the first place (Lagerspetz, pp. 104–5). Thus the ‘risks’ do not exist prior to the trust (so that I assess the risks and then decide whether or not to trust); instead, the particular risks involved exist because there is trust in the first place. Trust does not come about by a decision to take certain chances. It is not the application of judgment to a predefined possibility. This relates back to Lars Hertzberg’s discussion of reliance and trust. Hertzberg sees reliance as an exercise of judgment, but trust is prior to judgment. We can find an example of how trust can be constitutive of meaning in John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, in which a friendship between two men ends in an act of euthanasia. The drifter, George, kills his mentally disabled friend Lennie after Lennie has unintentionally murdered a woman. George knows that Lennie cannot be acquitted of this crime, but wants to spare him the suffering he would have to bear at the hands of a world that will not sympathize with Lennie’s mental disability—a world that might ‘lock him up and strap him down and put him in a cage’ (Steinbeck, p. 97). Steinbeck enables us to understand George’s actions—to trust George, so that Lennie’s death is perceived as euthanasia, rather than murder. Did their relationship before the killing include within it the possibility of euthanasia? The question is ludicrous. Lennie could not have understood George’s actions. The possibility that George someday will have to kill Lennie does not arise until the end of their lives together. It is inconceivable to think that if the possibility of euthanasia had been suggested, Lennie could have understood—still less that he could have held euthanasia as an expression of what he entrusted to George. One of the problems that arose in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ was that while Baier admits that the morality of a trust relationship will depend upon the particular moral stance that we take, she fails to notice that the judgment of another’s will as either good or ill is also dependent upon that stance. If Lennie had known that George was willing to kill him under the right conditions, he may not have trusted George (he may have felt that there could be no ‘right’ conditions), but he would have been wrong not to trust him. If trust is understood as reliance on another’s good will, a neutral definition of trust is not possible, because the very judgment that a relationship is a relationship of trust is a moral judgment. It requires some understanding of what good will entails. As another example, we may believe that the Inquisitor’s interest in the heathen is entirely malicious. However, it is also possible to believe (and certainly some must have believed) that the Inquisitor’s interest is in the well being of the heathen’s eternal soul, and thus his torture is actually a manifestation of the Inquisitor’s good will towards unbelievers. If one takes Lennie’s death to be senseless, unjustified murder, then one will say that Lennie was wrong to trust George, and that George failed Lennie’s trust; but this is clearly not the reaction that Steinbeck wishes to evoke from his readers. Steinbeck shows us that George’s actions are motivated by his fear of seeing Lennie murdered brutally, or of seeing Lennie spend the rest of his life in a cage. George wants Lennie to live with dignity, and cannot bear to see
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him die like a hunted animal. The author makes it obvious to the reader that, while George is now free from the burden of having to look after Lennie, George will find neither peace nor happiness as a result. George now bears a greater burden— some may say ‘guilt’ (but that does not mean that his actions were ‘wrong’)—it is more than a case of being unhappy without Lennie. For George, the story of their friendship and of their future defined peace and happiness, and the very possibility of a place where Lennie could be happy and secure is what gave life meaning for George. Trust relationships can involve more than just reliance on someone’s good will. The relationship may involve one’s sense of meaning. Baier comes close to acknowledging this in her article ‘Trust and Its Vulnerabilities’ and she moves away from the contract model’s demarcation of specific things trusted in a relationship. In spite of employing the entrusting model, hoping again to bring out what is expected of the trusted, she writes, But trustworthiness is not just mechanical dependability, and trust is not merely confidence in a range of particular actions in a range of particular circumstances. The trustworthy can show their trustworthiness in surprising ways, and to trust is to be willing to give the trusted the benefit of the doubt when the surprise is, initially at least, unpleasant. For to trust is to give discretionary powers to the trusted, to let the trusted decide how, on a given matter, one’s welfare is best advanced, to delay the accounting for a while, to be willing to wait to see how the trusted has advanced one’s welfare. The assurance typically given (implicitly or explicitly) by the person who invites our trust, unlike that typically given in that peculiar case of assurance, a promise or contract, is not assurance of some very specific action or set of actions, but assurance simply that the trusting’s welfare is, and will one day be seen to have been, in good hands (Baier, 1994, pp. 136–7).
What Baier hints at here is that in some cases (and she is right to emphasize some cases), the truster allows the trusted to define what constitutes the truster’s good will: although the phenomenon of trust may include my preconceived idea of what is good for me, the ones whom I trust may in the course of our relationship lead me to reconsider those ideas. And in extreme cases, a parent and child for example, there may be no preconceived idea of one’s good. One’s good may only be understood as it is shown through one’s parents’ words and deeds. Baier is reluctant to condone trust relationships in which the truster relies on the trusted for the very concept of his own good (except perhaps the parent–child relationship), and she will not go as far as Lagerspetz to suggest that all trust is like this. She wants to retain some means of judging the relationship as either morally good or morally bad from inside that relationship. But this type of relationship would leave the truster with no objective means, given Baier’s definition of trust, by which to judge the relationship as healthy or harmful. That is one reason why instrumentalist language (in which there is some
Trusting Others: Suspicion
objective of trust the obtainment of which serves as a measure of trust) keeps cropping up in Baier’s work (and in our relationships). The existence of such a measure should make trust’s rationality readily discernible. But if this is so, why must Baier still ask, ‘But how are we to tell rash trust from wise trust, sensible ventures from silly adventures?’, concluding, ‘There are, as far as I have yet discovered, no useful rules to tell us when to trust or even when we should have trusted’ (Baier, 1994, p. 151). Here Baier overstates the problem. One tried and true rule is to consider the opinions of those who are close to you (as when your mother tells you that your boyfriend is no good) or of those who are experts in a given field (as when your accountant tells you to declare your tips on your income tax return). But there are also circumstances when others lack understanding and fail to see what is important—in other words, there will always be cases where the truster sees her trust as warranted in spite of the warnings of others, and these cases are perhaps something like what Baier has in mind. But moral theory cannot provide such rules, if they exist at all. And in our everyday relationships, we can and do make judgments as to when a relationship goes awry or when what we thought was a decent relationship now appears to be just the opposite. We can and do have alternative sources of values and of our understanding of right and wrong. However, there is another problem, a ‘deeper difficulty’, with the idea of trust as taking risks. Lagerspetz notes that Baier claims that ‘the truster … is vulnerable to the “possible but not expected ill will” of the trusted’. ‘Not expected’ may mean that betrayal is altogether excluded; however, this is ruled out by Baier’s definition. The only other alternative is that when I trust I find betrayal to be possible but unlikely. ‘I assign to it a certain (low) probability’ (Lagerspetz, p. 105). Lagerspetz believes that this is completely misguided because, first of all, it makes trust indistinguishable from a chancy reliance on the other’s good behavior; and, second, it suggests that perfect trust is impossible. ‘We can never trust anyone completely.’ If a truster characterizes his or her relationship as ‘taking a risk’, the picture created is not that of a secure relationship; rather it suggests distrust. The risk at the heart of Baier’s definition of trust distorts the nature of human relationships. She portrays our usual relationships as being plagued with doubt and suspicion; even those relationships we term trust relationships. Lagerspetz writes, Describing something as ‘accepted vulnerability’ suggests awareness of risk— but when I fully trust someone, there is just nothing I have ‘accepted’. From my own point of view, I am safe: I do not find my own predicament dangerous or unusually vulnerable. When I let a friend sleep in my kitchen I will typically not be ‘taking a risk’. This could be true even if my friend did subsequently attack me with a kitchen knife; I may unwittingly have run a risk, but that is something else. We trust our friends, but to say we take risks with them would be an odd way to describe friendship. Wilful [sic] exposure to danger can be anything from courage to foolhardiness to curiosity—anything but trust. Or take the related suggestion that we grant the trusted person ‘power’ over ourselves or things we care about. In friendship, questions of power relations are just not supposed to
Trusting Others, Trusting God arise. Use of power in friendship is a problem, perhaps a corruption—certainly not a defining feature of friendship (Lagerspetz, p. 105).
Lagerspetz points out that Baier’s approach plays on a confusion of two notions of ‘possibility’. It is always possible, barring any logical inconsistency, that my friend may take a kitchen knife and kill me. But this is not the sense of ‘possibility’ that is involved in the risk of a trust relationship. We are not concerned with the physical or theoretical possibility that something goes wrong. It is of course logically possible for my friend to kill me with a knife, as it is physically possible for her to do so, but that possibility does not arise for me. That is an essential part of what I mean by calling her a friend. Lagerspetz writes, ‘the problem, then, is this: on Baier’s analysis, it is as if trusting were a kind of pretence. We know that betrayal is “possible” but act as if it were impossible. The same person must simultaneously both believe and not believe that he is taking a risk’ (Lagerspetz, p. 107). Again, the common line of attack here is to appeal to the unconscious as an explanation of the location in which the aforementioned risk resides. When one trusts another, the argument goes, a person may not be aware of it, but he is unconsciously taking a risk. But a problem arises when we try to examine unconscious states of mind. To do so we must either look at a person’s thoughts and feelings or we must look at their actions. As Lagerspetz notes, these criteria for examining unconscious inner states ‘collapse into those for experiencing and behaving’. Thus, the unconscious inner state is an artifice, but its ‘purpose’ is thus to accomplish the illusion that trust must be something ‘real’ (Lagerspetz, p. 107). And here we return to the same difficulties of ‘He thought the chair would hold his weight’. But this is in fact what Baier suggests is the proper approach to understanding trust. Lagerspetz explains that words like ‘unconscious’ and ‘unselfconscious’ suggest, first of all, that there are conscious behaviors which, examined analogically, give us some understanding of unconscious behaviors; and second, that this type of analogical comparison is the best way to understand unconscious behaviors. Baier, he points out, is suggesting that trust be examined on the model of conscious behavior, and this examination, she believes, will lead us to see that trust has been there all along. For further clarity, she suggests that we examine explicit cases of trust, since proper and mature trust always includes the awareness of those who enter into it. Trust is ‘awareness of risk along with confidence that it is a good risk;’ thus deliberate, conscious, explicit trust relationships are the complete and paradigm cases of trust. Such trust relationships are beginning to sound like contracts. Baier approaches the question of when trust is rational from the question of whether it pays to trust. Lagerspetz maintains that this question derives from a ‘quest for a normative theory of trust’ which is confused. Searching for criteria of reasonable trust, such a theory implies that we can reason ourselves into trusting or distrusting another. Lagerspetz insists that trust is not typically based on reasoning, conscious or unconscious. ‘This point,’ he believes, ‘is completely different from a statistical generalization; it has to with what the word means.’
Trusting Others: Suspicion
Baier’s confusion regarding unconscious and conscious trust leads her to miss an important component of the concept of trust, namely, that lack of awareness of trust is constitutive of our very concept of trust. Lagerspetz comments that ‘letting ourselves’ fall asleep on trains and planes can be quite ordinary and we do so without thinking about the other passengers. As he remarks, this is trusting them. If we are conscious of trusting each other and we insist that the risk that we face is minimal, then it makes sense to doubt whether we trust one another in the first place (Lagerspetz, p. 109). But Baier is aware that some trust relationships could not survive being tested in such a manner, given the place of trust in our cultural climate. She concludes ‘Trust and Antitrust’ with a warning that, even if we do find an acceptable test of trust, it may be better not to use it, not to test trust. But waiting until there is some reason for distrust before one puts trust to the test, she adds, is very dicey. It is ‘a very risky bet on the justice, if not the “civilization,” of the system of trust one inhabits’. She continues, ‘We may have to trade off civilization for justice, unless we can trust not only our trust but, even more vitally, our distrust’ (Baier, 1986, p. 260). Baier’s ‘Response to Olli Lagerspetz’ points out that Lagerspetz neglects several of Baier’s articles. Had he paid attention to these, he would have seen that many of his criticisms are unnecessary. For example, Baier denies that trust must be voluntary, and reiterates her desire to account for cases of unselfconscious trust and spontaneous trust, so as to counter the suggestions of choice and explicitness in her earlier work. She states that the entrusting model was employed because it ‘encouraged us to answer the question of what the trusted is expected to do’, but insists that she ‘did not suggest that whenever we trust there are “piece goods” which are entrusted’. Baier does not seem to notice that ‘canceling explicitness’ works contrary to ‘answering the question of what the trusted is expected to do’, regardless of whether or not what is entrusted is piece goods or something less tangible. She writes that betrayal of trust can always be described in such a manner as to reveal what was entrusted. Examples Baier offers include: ‘she lied to him’ (honesty was entrusted); ‘she told his secrets to his enemies’ (his secrets were entrusted); and ‘she turned his children against him’ (his children’s love for him was entrusted) (Baier, 1997, pp. 118–19). Again, Baier’s suggestion is that while the conditions of trust are not explicit, they can in theory be made explicit: the conditions are there, but they are unconscious. At this point it becomes clear that Baier misses much of Lagerspetz’s criticism. Well, so what if she lied to him? He may accept that. A lie does not always constitute a breach of a trust relationship—but does that mean that honesty was not entrusted? One may come to see the other’s honesty as unimportant. While an examination of her other articles does negate some of Lagerspetz’s concerns, it remains true that her work, not only in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ but in other articles as well, is full not only of instrumentalist language, but of inconsistencies as well. However, Baier does wage a criticism of Lagerspetz that is worthy of examination: In Alanen, Heināmaa and Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity.
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Lagerspetz wants to deny reflective forms of trust as trust. Baier asks, ‘Can we not get an account of trust that allows both unreflective and reflective trust to count equally as real forms of trust’? (Baier, 1997, p. 120) Two Forms of Trust Baier charges Lagerspetz not only with missing the philosophical point that trust can in fact be reflective and conscious, but, perhaps more importantly, she also accuses him of advocating a dangerous childish ignorance: Maybe in Swansea and in Åbo people can prolong innocent ignorant unselfconscious trust beyond infancy, and regard all more informed and self-conscious successors to that as meriting the label ‘suspicion’ rather than ‘trust’. But in large US cities we cannot afford to be as little children, and do not necessarily admire those adults who make that attempt and so cultivate a forced naïveté … If we want the term to refer to something we can intentionally prolong and sustain, then we must reject Lagerspetz’s account, with what I am tempted to call its Wittgensteinian romantization of childhood thoughtlessness, innocence, and powerlessness (Baier, 1997, p. 121).
I have already suggested that Lagerspetz makes too much of unconscious trust. Certainly we can think of cases where we become conscious of trust without destroying that trust: A friend tells me she suspects that her husband is having an affair. She asks me if I trust my husband and I reply that I do. Perhaps I have never thought about the possibility of my husband having an affair. The possibility has just been introduced (I reflect upon it), but I shrug it off. I trust him. One could imagine that consciousness of this trust could even serve to strengthen our relationship (and if, instead, doubts gnawed at me, they would be an indication of the type of relationship we had). But it still seems right to say that we are largely unaware of our trust. Could it not be that ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ trust are really two very different forms of trust; that these different types of trust are as Lagerspetz suggests, ‘two related—and equally literal—uses’ of the word trust (Lagerspetz, p. 102)? Lagerspetz addresses the seeming ‘paradox of asymmetry’ between first- and third-person accounts of trust. ‘I ask my friend to stay overnight without further ado—right there and then I will not call my own attitude “trust”. Yet, it might make sense for an observer to call it so.’ Recalling his previous discussion about ‘He thought the chair would hold his weight’, Lagerspetz writes, ‘there is a disparity between how I would describe my own attitude right then and how someone else might see it. In fact, certain descriptions of human behaviour and character not only tolerate, but feed on a disparity between first-person and third-person perspectives.’ He uses the example of innocence and notes that the description of someone as innocent only has meaning from a third-person account. It does
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not make sense for one to call oneself innocent as a description of one’s present attitude. Lagerspetz points out that one of the things we admire about an innocent person is that he does not think of himself in terms of ‘innocence’. In fact, if one were to weigh one’s alternatives in order to discern what option is ‘the most innocent thing to do’, far from being innocent, such a person would be corrupt. Similar points apply to many other character traits, including our concepts of generosity, charity, and so on. Lagerspetz writes, The paradigm of those descriptions is this: two people discuss a third one who is absent—while, at the same time, it is essential that the speakers have a certain idea of how that person would look at her own activities. Their use of the concept builds on the assumption that what they say is not what she would say. The terms ‘first and third person perspectives’ of course involve a simplification and may give rise to misunderstandings: the distinction I have in mind does not coincide with our use of pronouns in speech. Rather, it reflects the difference between the situations of an acting subject and an observer. It is not unusual that I take a ‘third-person’ perspective on my own behaviour (Lagerspetz, p. 110).
In relation to this point, Peter Winch writes, in Simone Weil: the Just Balance, that our language abounds with cases where the various positions of various speakers give rise to different kinds of relations to what is being said. A person listening to another can understand what he or she means only because the one speaking and the one listening express their understanding differently, as a result of their position, or relation, to what is being said. These differences are a part of what Wittgenstein called the grammar of a concept as these differences in fact help us to understand what is being said (Winch, 1989, p. 39). Similarly, talk of trust makes sense because of first- and third-person distinctions in our usage. The concept of trust also seems to rely on the primacy of the past tense: I talk about trust usually when I trusted someone. Returning to Lagerspetz’s discussion of ‘innocence’, he notes that the concept of trust has similarities and dissimilarities with the concept of innocence. One difference is that use of ‘trust’ does make sense in one’s description of one’s own present attitude. Like ‘innocence’, trust is not something that we usually are aware of, plan for, or express. This is an important part of the grammar of trust. As Lagerspetz notes, trust as the result of a conscious process of decision is ‘logically secondary’ to unreflected trust. ‘It would, for instance, be unthinkable that a child had to learn to trust first through an effort, later to get habituated into it … The sense of the word “trust” would be quite different if it were the rule that people were “trustful” because they had consciously set out to be so’ (Lagerspetz, p. 111). The idea of entrusting is also logically second to unreflective trust since entrusting is dependent on making a decision. In contrast, Lagerspetz writes, trust is something that, fundamentally, cannot be chosen.
Trusting Others, Trusting God The problem is conceptual, not one of, as it were, mental agility. It is analogous to the problem of deciding to act ‘naturally’. Trusting means that one rules certain possibilities or risks out of consideration. Deciding, on the other hand, presupposes that one considers them. It is basically for the same kinds of reason that we cannot freely choose our beliefs. True, there are conversions. And we may decide to give someone the benefit of a doubt. Nevertheless, the ‘decision to trust’ is not the kind of decision we make when we decide to go for a walk. What we can do is fight fear or cynicism in ourselves; eventually, we may or may not emerge as more trustful persons. But to do so, we must change … To sum up, then: trust is in the eye of the beholder. It is constituted by a disparity of two perspectives: the observer sees the agent’s behaviour as trustful because the agent does not. Again, there is a sense of paradox—as long as we keep in mind that the ‘paradox’ is an undramatic feature of our everyday life, being part of the grammar of many other concepts as well (Lagerspetz, p. 112).
Throughout his article, Lagerspetz has been concerned with the idea that trust is supposed to ‘stand for’ something, or to ‘refer to’ something. This idea distorts the more basic meaning of trust and suggests that our primary use of language is to ‘classify’ the external world. But he observes that speaking about things like trust is ‘our way of coping with the various ways in which we are dependent on each other. We evoke a certain perspective on human action; it is to see behaviour in a certain light.’ That ‘certain light’ is a moral perspective. Calling someone’s attitude one of ‘trust’, he writes, ‘is an invitation to see it in a light that above all invites moral responses’. This light allows us to understand one’s response to a breach of trust and the significance of breaking another’s trust. Lagerspetz writes, ‘I suspect that in the last analysis, what a great many moral concerns mean to us cannot be understood in abstraction from the fact that human life can involve relationships of trust.’ Thus while Lagerspetz and Baier agree that trust itself is connected to human morality, Baier’s account distorts what trust is because she understands the relation between trust and morality to be external, so that trust comes off looking like prudence; Lagerspetz shows that the relationship is essential and constitutive to the very meaning of ‘trust’. Lagerspetz’s emphasis on unconscious trust leads him to conclude that ‘trust exists only in the difference between agent and observer perspectives’. He believes that the inexpressibility of trust derives from this dependence on perspective since in paradigm cases of trusting, the truster does not recognize that he or she trusts. He concludes, ‘To see something as trust is to take the possibility of betrayal into account; but to actually trust is precisely not to recognize betrayal as a genuine possibility’ (Lagerspetz, p. 114). Thus he believes that identifying something as trust requires a perspective outside of the trust relationship.
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In ‘Sustaining Trust’, Baier begins to characterize trust relationships in negative terms, but she does not allow for Lagerspetz’s point that, under normal consequences, there is nothing to the concept of trust, in spite of the fact that her language portrays trust as something one does not do. She writes of our trust relationships, whether with those close to us or with strangers on the street, as ‘habits of trusting cooperation’. Like unconscious thumb-sucking, habitual trust is ‘mindless’ and suspicions ‘do not occur’ to us: One gets into bed as usual with one’s spouse, trusting that he has not suddenly succumbed to any brain disease that would turn him into a mad aggressor (as in fact happened with a couple I knew) just as mindlessly as one sits down in the empty seat on the bus, trusting that the person beside whom one seats oneself does not have a switchblade at the ready. (In some cities one does learn to look before one sits …) Our attitudes and actions in our dealings with persons standing in all degrees of closeness and distance from us fall into pretty regular patterns of habitual behavior. … We trustingly surrender our passport to whatever person occupies the appropriate-looking booth when we cross a country’s borders—it does not occur to us to try to check to make sure that this is not some terrorist masquerading as an immigration official, and no more does it occur to us to check to make sure that the dark sleeping shape in the marriage bed is our spouse, rather than, say, some possessor of the ring of Gyges or some devil in sudden possession of our spouse’s body. We take many appearances on trust, and we would go mad if we did not and could not. We trust uniforms, badges, and framed certificates on professionals’ walls, all of them fairly easily faked (Baier, 1994, p. 159, my emphasis).
Whereas Lagerspetz wants to call conscious trust ‘suspicion’, and therefore not trust—thus providing a contrast between unconscious/trust and conscious/ suspicion—Baier wants to label both conscious and unconscious forms of trust as trust, but her bias leads her to treat unconscious trust as inferior to conscious trust. Unconscious trust is rarely, if ever, rational trust. She even asks, in ‘Trust and Its Vulnerabilities’, whether trust itself is pathological. She replies, ‘I resist that thought, but I can accommodate the cynics who ask it by allowing that it would usually be foolish, in one’s attitude toward a given person on a given matter, not to mix trust on some matters with doubts and prudent checkups on others’ (Baier, 1994, p. 140). Trust, Power, and Equality Certainly what causes Baier to overlook some of Lagerspetz’s points about trust is her concept of language, in particular the idea that trust can only be rationalized In Moral Prejudices, pp. 152–82.
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if something can be shown to have been gained through trusting. Many of the problems with the language she chooses undoubtedly stem from her attempt to provide content to non-conscious forms of trust, where trust is more like an attitude than a state of mind. But her distortion of friendship (as a power relation) is remarkable. Her passion for equality in relationships also renders her description of trust incapable of accounting for certain moral perspectives. Her work in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ is an attempt to find a measure by which we may assess the morality of trust relationships between persons of unequal power. She uses an ‘entrusting’ model, defining trust as reliance on another’s ‘competence and willingness’ to take care of the things with which we entrust them. What exactly a person relies upon in such a relationship ought to be able to be made public; again, if a relationship can survive the trusters knowing exactly what it is about themselves that the other relies upon, then the relationship is morally acceptable. As Baier writes, This test elevates to a special place one form of trust, namely, trusting others with knowledge of what it is about them which enables one to trust them as one does, or expect them to be trustworthy. The test could be restated this way: trust is morally decent only if, in addition to whatever else is entrusted, knowledge of each party’s reasons for confident reliance on the other to continue the relationship could in principle also be entrusted—since such mutual knowledge would be itself a good, not a threat to other goods. To the extent that mutual reliance can be accompanied by mutual knowledge of the conditions for that reliance, trust is above suspicion, and trustworthiness a nonsuspect virtue (Baier, 1986, pp. 259–60).
A paradigm case for moral trust thus exists where a disparity of power can be leveled by mutual knowledge and mutual reliance; hence, Baier’s test for the morality of a trust relationship must be performed by a scale which can weigh each side of the relationship, not in simplistic terms of brute force, but with a fuller understanding of what is entrusted in the relationship and what each party stands to lose, as well as each party’s motive. She recognizes the failings of this test and questions ‘whether and when it should be applied to actual cases of trust’. Baier speaks of the contract model as ‘relations between equals and nonintimates’ which enables ‘trust with minimal vulnerability … designed for cooperation between mutually suspicious risk-averse strangers’. As such she focuses on relations between intimates, but she is unable to let go of the requirement of equality, leaving a new model of trust designed for mutually suspicious risk-averse familiars. We have already seen that Baier’s view of language feeds her suspicions: the word trust must stand for something, perhaps something entrusted, which is specifiable even if the parties involved cannot actually state what it is that they entrust to each other. That view perhaps also drives her need for equality and for a moral balance by which to evaluate trust relationships. Simone Weil was also interested in the idea of equality between persons, but she did not think, by the time of her later writings at least, that the idea of equality
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between human beings was the basis for the concept of justice. The social contract model of human society emphasizes human rights and equality. As Peter Winch notes in Simone Weil: the Just Balance, ‘The question which all the participants of this contract want to have satisfactorily answered is “Why has somebody else got more than I have?”’ Weil’s position is that ‘where people are upset by inequalities and think in terms of their rights, they will be distracted from justice’ (Winch, 1989, p. 187). The focus on the contract model in this case concentrates attention on the notion of equilibrium between contractors, and suggests that equilibrium must be established if moral order is to exist. Like the emphasis on a social contract, the emphasis on the contract model for trust shifts our attention to questions of what is at stake in the trust relationship—what one can gain and what one can lose—and thus shifts our attention away from morality. Baier’s definition of trust is unable to account for a truly moral trust, since the parties involved are, at best, always concerned with what they may gain from the relationship and what they may lose. The difference between Baier’s point of view and Weil’s can be brought out by an examination of Weil’s notion of ‘a supernatural virtue’. Winch begins by noting that ‘supernatural’ is not opposed to ‘natural’ in the sense that they are two distinct realms of existence. Weil uses the term ‘supernatural’ to denote a way of thinking that offers other possibilities than the usual (‘natural’) mechanistic understanding of human behavior. She illustrates this in her discussions of the Peloponnesian War, particularly in an exchange between the Athenians and the militarily inferior Melians, who reject the Athenians’ order to submit or be destroyed. The Athenians argued that ‘the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept … it is a general and necessary law of nature to rule wherever one can’. But the Melians do not accept the Athenians’ terms and reply that the Athenians cannot force them to accept. Weil’s use of the term ‘natural’ is tied to a certain conception of human action embodied in the Athenians’ view of natural law, and obviously similar to Hobbes’ vision of the natural state of man. The Athenians see the Melians’ insistence that they cannot be made to accept as an ‘illusion … a defence of the weak against the strong’; in other words, ‘They are claiming that there is no sense in the Melian use of ‘cannot’; it is nothing more than a rhetorical way of speaking, not expressive of any genuine impossibility’ (Winch, 1989, pp. 191–6). Winch sees the Athenians’ point of view as related to a certain concept of language, namely, the correspondence theory. For many philosophers (I would include Baier), a concept’s grammar requires justification by showing it to correspond to something. If this view of language is applied to the concept of justice, Winch notes, the result is precisely the view held by Thrasymachus and the Athenian ambassadors to Melos. Winch characterizes this view as holding that ‘there is a justice which is “natural” and if we use the word in any other way we Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, translated by R. Warner, as cited in Peter Winch, Simone Weil: the Just Balance, p. 192.
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are either deluding ourselves or trying to delude others’. He points out that while one may insist that ‘It is of course part of this argument that a readiness on our part not to exercise our power to the fullest extent of which we are capable is essential to our forming such concepts’, such an argument does not show that the Melians are ‘right’ and the Athenians ‘wrong’. Simone Weil remarks that the good lies ‘outside this world’: To say that the good lies outside the world is to agree with the Athenians that there is nothing in the world which justifies the [Melians’] conviction. But to say that there is nothing in the world which justifies it is to say that there is nothing which justifies it. Of course that is not the same as saying it is unjustified; and that perhaps is what the Athenians cannot see (Winch, 1989, pp. 197–8).
For the Athenians, the justification of their position is easy enough to see—they kill all the men of Melos; but the Melians’ position ‘involves thinking in a way to which one recognizes questions of justification to be irrelevant’. That the Athenians’ position—that it is a natural law to rule wherever one can—is wrong can be shown in such cases where ‘a man will forbear out of pure generosity to command where he has the power to do so’. Winch writes that in cases where two parties have equal power, it is easy to show why each party reaches the decision that it does. The answer is merely that each party’s power is limited by the other’s power. But in cases which Weil terms ‘supernatural’ there is no easy explanation. There is no straightforward explanation for why one party would choose, as the men of Melos chose, their certain destruction; neither for a situation in which the stronger party refrains from exploiting the weaker. Thus the explanation of one’s actions in a situation of equality of power can be explained in ‘natural’ or ‘naturalistic’ terms of power and power relationships. In contrast, the supernatural is not interested in explanations. Weil writes, ‘The supernatural virtue of justice consists of behaving exactly as though there were equality when one is stronger in an unequal relationship.’ While the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ cases seem to bear a strong resemblance, the truth is that they are two very different occurrences. Weil’s use of ‘supernatural’ shows us that when we try to give a ‘natural’ explanation to certain phenomena, we are led astray and misconstrue the incident we are attempting to describe. We unable to find an explanation of the usual type, but, perhaps more importantly, we relate to the ‘supernatural’ case in a very different way than to the more usual type of case. Winch writes, ‘they make us wonder, in a way which no explanation is going to satisfy; it is not the sort of wonder which explanations are designed to allay’ (Winch, 1989, pp. 204–8). Baier resists the idea that the powerful can be trusted with their power. Her view of human nature seems to be thoroughly pessimistic. In ‘Sustaining Trust’, she writes that power—including power after power and the maintenance of power—is the destructor of trust relationships. She continues,
Trusting Others: Suspicion
What we easily can come to see to be a twin truth is that the meekness, servility, and undemandingness of the relatively powerless are equally responsible for this corruption. Domination and obedience, self-promotion and self-abasement, whatever the motives that prompt them, work together to corrupt schemes of cooperation. The practical judgment we have to hope some of us sometimes display is that needed to find a way to empower and embolden the relatively powerless and to disempower and humble the dangerously powerful (Baier, 1994, p. 160, my emphasis).
I emphasized the last sentence in the above quotation because I want to highlight Baier’s idea that ‘some of us’ must empower others; presumably, we must risk or give up some amount of power of our own in order to do so. Does Baier wish to empower the powerless in order to gain more power for herself in the long run, or does she have some bond or obligation to empower them? Where does this desire to help the powerless come from? Baier’s account of trust cannot account for her own moral feelings. The Foundations of Trust Baier investigates from where such a moral point of view might arise. In ‘Trust and Antitrust’, she views trust as an evolutionary advantage, necessary for the survival of a species which relies on others, at least at first, for sustenance, and founded upon a natural cooperativeness, inherent in language (Baier, 1986, p. 242). Later, in ‘Sustaining Trust’, she examines T. M. Scanlon’s work on trust in order to find some natural virtue that can account for the presence of trust. ‘Scanlon believes that there is some virtue appropriately called “fidelity” which does not depend on any social custom, but which could and should be displayed by Crusoe and Friday, by any two people who can somehow communicate their intentions to one another.’ While Baier agrees that ‘there must be some sort of trustworthiness or fidelity that is possible and desirable independently of the existence of what Hume called “social artifices”’, she does not believe that Scanlon’s ‘fidelity principle’ will suffice (Baier, 1994, p. 168). This principle only requires that one do exactly what one has promised to do—nothing more. Thus the ‘fidelity principle’ is Scanlon’s basis for promising. It is what makes a promise binding even where there is no social practice of promising. Baier writes, ‘any attempt we might make to show the validity of a principle of Scanlon’s … would turn out to be question begging, since we would find ourselves having to take some form of trust on trust, in order to “validate” principles like Scanlon’s fidelity principle, or Hobbes’ fifteenth “law of nature”’ (Baier, 1994, p. 169). One serious flaw Baier finds with Scanlon’s principle is that it does not allow for the trusted one to use her discretion in the light of unforeseen circumstances. Baier imagines a ‘Friend’ who objects to Scanlon’s principle because that principle ‘would deprive people of the freedom to do what they judged best when the
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time came to act’. Her Friend believes that only divine Providence can provide assurances to trusters; any assurances offered by mortal men and women are empty at best. But what if, Baier suggests, Friend is really attempting to uproot our faith in the practice of giving assurances? Baier imagines that this Friend may be a ‘Communist agent’ who believes neither in God nor in the importance of moral discourse. Thus, Friend is not really involved in the conversation in the first place, but rather uses pretense to hide her secret motives. Baier’s point is that such moral discourse has to be more than a mere ‘farce’. Until we can trust those with whom we are talking to be doing with words what the form of their words suggests (proposing, counterproposing, raising serious objections, seriously considering the merits of a proposal), no justificatory discourse can be sustained, no principles get ratified or vetoed. But if we can trust each other to mean what we seem to say in such a context, then the attempt at validating a basic fidelity principle by inquiring if anyone rejects it will be superfluous, at least in that context. Some more basic sort of fidelity must already be implicitly recognized and exhibited in our speech behavior, if our putative acceptances and rejections of principles are to carry any force. If they do not, then nothing that we say about our acceptance or rejection of proposed principles will be worth the wind it is written on (Baier, 1994, pp. 169–73).
So language may provide a place in which to find a basis for trust and moral discourse in general. Baier believes that we can get at the foundation for trust through language, since trust relies at least to some extent on doing what one says one will do. By looking at language, more specifically, at words, for the foundation of trust, Baier reverts to explicitness of the contract model. But she recognizes that matters are not as simple as merely doing what one says one will do. Baier looks for some norm of language use, and finds it—or something close to it—in John Locke’s notion of ‘civility’: In my view, John Locke got as close to anyone to summing up the essence of our norms for speech when he wrote of the importance of teaching children to show, in their speaking, what he termed ‘civility’: ‘that decency and gracefulness of Looks, Voice, Words, Motions, Gestures and of all the whole outward Demeanour …’ Locke discusses the norm of looking into the face of the one to whom we are speaking; he takes it to be a basic rule of speech, more important to impart to learners, he thinks, than all the rules of grammar … Speech is our cooperative and trust-facilitated activity par excellence, and speech acts are only successful if they ‘take in Company’, if they get across to our conversational partners … (Baier, 1994, p. 175)
Baier employs Locke’s ‘civility’ in order to get at ‘a more primitive sort of fidelity and trustworthiness than that involved in conformity to the rules of any social practice’—a civility behind speech—a basis for our trust in speech and thus
Trusting Others: Suspicion
a foundation for language. What she has in mind seems to be a natural spirit of cooperation. Social practices, such as promising, ‘build on our primitive cooperative practices’. These primitive practices, shared with more primitive life forms, include mating and rearing children, along with non-verbal expressions. Developed from these primitive practices are ever more sophisticated practices ‘such as the resigned shoulder shrug [and] the acquiescent bowing of the head’ that are common to all primates. Her point is that we trust these gestures, and, she believes, this trust is foundational to our acquisition of language and social practices. The importance of our trust in these primitive gestures to our social practices is subtle because they are ‘so natural and habitual to us’. This foundational trust is strong—we do not typically doubt the motives of handshakes, smiles and bows. And this strength multiplies with constant, successful use (Baier, 1994, pp. 175–6). This foundation for trust is important, Baier writes, because ‘Only if trust is already there in some form can we increase it by using what there is to contrive conditions in which it can spread to new areas.’ Trust begets trust, and our basic instincts, according to Baier, are cooperative and trusting. Her reference to Darwin suggests that she understands human beings, or better, Homo sapiens, to be somehow inherently cooperative and trustworthy creatures. I emphasize the words ‘suggests’ because Baier does not actually state that human beings are cooperative and trustworthy—certainly not naturally so. The suspicion of human nature that pervades so much of her work prevents her from making such a bold and positive claim. This positive attitude towards human nature seems to contradict her usually suspicious stance, especially since suspicion is a necessary component of mature trust for Baier. She skirts the issue of natural trustworthiness by saying that we trust gestures, not other people: Their currency is strong and established. ‘Their’ refers to ‘smiles, shrugs, greetings, glances, and handshakes’, not to the people whose faces smile, whose hands shake. This positive attitude toward human nature is unbecoming to Baier. She would be, I think, the first to point out that liars smile and swindlers shake our hands. To trust the gesture is surely folly, even if the gesture is a ‘mutually disempowering gesture’, as she describes the handshake (Baier, 1994, p. 177), since gestures can be lies as surely as words can. Baier, if I read her correctly in light of her reference to Darwin, seems to suggest that trust is simply more common than distrust, if for no other reason than because a trusting attitude is favored by evolution. In any case, she sees this cooperation as moral in nature and human beings as generally good willed (or, at least, they tend to be good willed). Like Baier, Peter Winch also examined the idea of a natural virtue, and argued that truth-telling is a moral norm in every society that uses language. In ‘Nature and Convention’, he writes, ‘There are certain aspects of morality which make it necessary to say that it is not entirely based on convention but that, on the contrary, it is presupposed by any possible conventions.’ Specifically, Winch looks at Karl Popper’s work, attacking Popper’s claim that the idea of natural justice implies ‘the nonsensical idea that norms can be laid down “in accordance with natural laws” in the scientific sense’. Popper is concerned that the very grammar
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of the word ‘norm’ implies the possibility of its alteration, but the possibility of alteration is absent from our concepts of natural laws; hence, moral norms cannot be ‘natural’, that is, unalterable. But for Winch this does not settle the question. He agrees that, logically, if one says that a certain social norm exists, it must in fact be true that people follow the norm more often than not; or, he notes, at the very least, that people will exhibit some type of unfriendly response to the breaking of that norm. But if this point is to be used to show that all norms are necessarily alterable, one would have to further demonstrate that ‘in respect of any given norm, it must always be possible to imagine people in a society not adhering to it more often than they break it, or not tending to manifest disapprobatory attitudes to breaches of it’ (Winch, 1972, pp. 51–2). Winch tries to show that this is not the case, but not because, as Popper suggests, that adhering to the norm is assured by some scientific law of nature, but rather because the idea of not adhering to it is unintelligible. The norm that Winch is concerned with is that of truth-telling. He writes, ‘There could not be a human society which was not also, in some sense, a moral community. In trying to show this, I shall also try to indicate more specifically moral conceptions which, in one form or another, must be recognized in any human society.’ Winch first points out that morality is not a ‘form of activity’ that can be engaged in or not at will. ‘You cannot put yourself outside the sphere of moral discourse by saying that it does not interest you.’ To Winch this suggests that our moral concepts arise out of our ‘common life’, and not as a result of some particular form of social activity in which humans engage. The aspect of ‘common life’ Winch examines, like Baier, is language. He notes that Hobbes ‘tries to use this feature of human life to prove precisely the opposite position I wish to maintain: to prove, namely, that the natural state of men living together is the bellum omnium contra omnes’. Hobbes’ thesis relies on his idea of a covenant to which everyone agrees; however, this agreement is reached rationally and its rationality must be explained in purely individual terms, since the existence of social institutions is ruled out in the state of nature. But Winch argues that language and hence rationality are fundamentally social in nature, and, further, that ‘the social conditions of language and rationality must also carry with them certain fundamental moral conditions’(Winch, 1972, pp. 59–60). He examines Wittgenstein’s idea that ‘agreement in judgments’ is a necessary condition for ‘the possibility of anyone’s ever saying something’. In Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein says: 242: If language is to be a means of communication there must be agreement not only in definitions but also (queer as this may seem) in judgments. This seems to abolish logic, but it does not do so.—It is one thing to describe methods of measurement, and another to obtain and state results of measurement. But what we call ‘measuring’ is partly determined by a certain constancy in results of measurement.
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241: ‘So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and false’?— It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life (Wittgenstein, p. 88).
Winch writes, ‘The conception of a distinction between true and false statements (and therefore the conception of statements simpliciter) could not precede a general adherence to the norm of truth-telling … But adherence to the norm of truthfulness goes along with the distinction between true and false statements; without the one there could not be the other.’ He continues, It would, then, be nonsense to call the norm of truth-telling a ‘social convention’, if by that were meant that there might be a human society in which it were not generally adhered to. Of course, the existence of this norm is possible only in a society in which there are also certain (linguistic and other) conventions, but that is quite different from saying that it is itself conventional. Rather, general adherence to such a norm is a feature of any society in which there are conventions, that is, any society tout court (Winch, 1972, pp. 61–3).
Winch affectively argues that truth-telling must be normative in any society, but he still must show that this norm is a moral norm. An objector might assert that Winch confuses the difference between two meanings of ‘words like “right”: namely as meaning (a) morally right and (b) correctly used’. Winch observes the similarity between his position and that of Michael Polanyi, but points out that Polanyi fails to see the relevant distinction. Both Winch and Polanyi understand communication as involving much more than the mere use and understanding of words. Polanyi emphasizes trust as essential to language. But for Winch, the problem with Polanyi’s account lies in his attempt to portray that ‘commitment’ as ‘a sort of feeling’. Winch remarks, ‘Nobody can make his words mean something simply by willing that they should, still less by having a feeling when he utters them.’ But Winch finds the idea of commitment useful for denoting the distinction between ‘what words mean and what people mean by words. People can only say something and mean it if they use words that mean something; and it belongs to the kind of meaning that words have that they can be used by people in the statements that they (the people) mean.’ Importantly, he adds that using words to say what one means presupposes a society where people are related to each other in such a manner that saying something means committing oneself with others; in addition, these social relations require ‘a common respect for truthfulness’ (Winch, 1972, pp. 64–6). At this point I think Winch begins to make more of the word ‘commitment’ than is warranted. A commitment is not necessarily a moral matter, and the commitment Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, p. 88, as cited in Peter Winch, ‘Nature and Convention’, p. 61.
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to language is not a moral one. Winch tries to argue that truthfulness must have moral significance in any society. He offers the example of card-sharks who cheat whenever they can get away with it. Like Hobbes’ individuals, they expect each other to cheat and ‘don’t think any the worse of them for that, but simply try to ensure that they cannot by the threat of their guns on the table’. Winch remarks that such a scenario is a possible one when restricted to a small group of people, such as our card players. But, he insists, such relations cannot represent an entire society. In such a situation, Speaking could only be regarded as a means of attaining some advantage by manipulating the reactions of other people in a desired way: the view of language as rhetoric put to Socrates by his Sophistic opponents in Plato’s Gorgias. Of course an individual can, at least sometimes, regard his utterances in that way, but not all, or even most, uses of language in a society could be generally so regarded. For one can only use words to manipulate the reactions of other men in so far as those others at least think they understand what one is saying. So the concept of understanding is presupposed by the possibility of such manipulation of reactions and cannot be elucidated in terms of it (Winch, 1972, pp. 67–8).
In the first chapter of this work, I cited Winch’s article, ‘Man and Society in Hobbes and Rousseau’, in which Winch argues that Hobbes’ discussion of human nature leaves human beings incapable of the type of judgment necessary for a moral life. Humans are unable to see the world (including other human beings) as anything but an instrument to their own projects—in fact, unable to see others as in any way separate from their projects. But here Winch is arguing not merely that the Hobbes’ community is not a moral community (where moral considerations are lacking); here he goes further and tries to argue that a Hobbes-style community cannot exist. However, in the paragraph cited above, Winch has only shown that truth-telling must occur more generally than lying in any community in which its members are said to understand each other; he has not proven that this truth-telling must have moral significance for those members. The Mystery of Trust Winch realized his error in light of R. F. Holland’s article, ‘Is Goodness a Mystery?’ Holland notes Winch’s statement that, while truthfulness must be considered as a virtue in all human societies, truthfulness will not have the same moral significance for all societies, nor for all members of a given society. He remarks, Well then, if the concern of some of them for truth be such that they would hazard all their prospects for it there is something as yet to be accounted for. For the only truth thus far explained is the sort that is told in the degree to which it supports the surrounding organization or gets you by without disrupting
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the existing social pattern. All that is necessary for this is a modicum of truth or something that approaches it yet keeps its distance, a conventional sort of standard truthfulness but anyway a relative truthfulness—even if it be arguable that in some society, in view of the advanced state of commerce say, the standard might have to be very precise or very subtle. I should be skeptical about ‘the standard’, but anyhow my point is that alongside it there could co-exist for at least some people in the society a concern with truth of an altogether different character, in which not to falsify became a spiritual demeanour. Where then could this spirit come from? (Holland, p. 107)
Note that Holland’s criticism of ‘Nature and Convention’ is akin to Winch’s criticism of Hobbes cited in Chapter 1. Holland points out that Winch’s depiction of truth-dependent society only allows for truth conceived instrumentally, not for truth conceived as an absolute value. Holland labels Winch’s approach as a ‘lifeform argument’ and makes the following comment regarding such an approach: All versions boil down in the end to the position that placing an absolute value upon something—or as I should prefer to say … seeing that there is an absolute value in something, or being struck by the absolute value of something—is the same as favouring it or otherwise supporting it (registering a choice, influencing someone in respect of it, and so on) against a background of arrangements composed of a nexus of natural and institutional needs. In short, the existence of the value is reduced to a matter of there being an approval and the approval is made intelligible by the background. What is illuminating here, and what makes life-form arguments attractive, is the idea that approval can be explained by its surrounds (Holland, pp. 102–3).
Thus if one assumes that the relationship between the approval and its background is one in which the background drives the approval, one in which the background explains and provides a foundation for the approval, a certain approach is neglected: namely, the possibility that the approval drives the background. The former approach can lead to a quasi-causal representation of the surrounds and an instrumentalist-flavored depiction of absolute value. Holland points out that where philosophers attempt to give a positive account of absolute value that attempt is usually made via an explanation of absolute value in terms of instrumental accounts of relative goods. ‘In this procedure the distinction between absolute and relative gets lost; and not surprisingly, because there is a relativizing tendency in the very idea of an absolute value’s being what it is in virtue of its having a function or role’ (Holland, p. 103). Holland is concerned with the tendency of philosophers to seek a sort of explanation that is not only unnecessary but also detrimental to understanding. To understand absolute value, one must stop asking ‘why’ and instead acknowledge that some concepts, in order to be appreciated, must remain a mystery to philosophy. I quote Holland at length:
Trusting Others, Trusting God I think that the attainment of, or the attachment to, anything absolutely good in the non-utilitarian arts, and in other institutions, has to do with what it is to wonder at the world. If this be so, there is a connection between concern for truth and wondering at the world. And if wondering at the world is connected, as I believe it is when it has any profundity, with seeing the beauty of the world and having a respect for what is given, then truth has to do with beauty and with the cherishing of things. Also, since to wonder at the world is to wonder at a mystery, concern for truth has to do with being related to mystery. These are not the connections I find users of the life-form argument making, though Plato made them and so did Wittgenstein in his ethics lecture. They are in a sense explanatory—and the more that can be shown about the possible modes of connection in each case the more powerfully illuminating they might become—but in the sense only that they try to hold together the different forms of, or encounters with, absolute value so that goodness might be apprehended as a unity. Why this goodness is what it is or why it should be present at all is left as the mystery it needs must be. When explanations are attempted of this, a movement of thought takes place of which I have offered illustrations. The positions I have rejected were rather roughly sketched, but maybe it was enough for the self-defeating principle to be discernible in them. To put it in a word, these explanations only relativize the value. And there comes a time—which for me had better be now—when one wants to say, ‘Let’s close the whole chapter’ (Holland, pp. 108–9).
As shown earlier, Annette Baier cited Locke’s ‘civility’ as coming close to the fundamental truthfulness which must accompany our speech if our speech is to have meaning. ‘Speech is our cooperative and trust-facilitated activity par excellence … We do cooperate in speaking,’ she writes, ‘even in our uses of speech to wound and insult’ (Baier, 1994, p. 175). Baier commits a mistake similar to Winch’s. The cooperation present in speaking—’even in our uses to wound and insult’—is not a moral cooperation. That cooperation is a logical necessity, but coloring it with a moral tone obscures the nature of moral cooperation. Examine her reference to Wittgenstein in the following passage: We do, after all, pass on to new generations the enabling, empowering, and eventually equalizing arts of speech … so we can point to the fact that we propagate our powers of speech. We produce new speakers, ready to claim and redefine their rights. Wittgenstein’s question, ‘Why do we bring up our children?’—itself enough to bring to a full stop the philosopher who had been intent on sorting our motive into egoistic and nonegoistic—can be adapted to ‘Why do we empower them with speech?’ We do this, and we can trust ourselves to continue doing it. So we have at least some clues about the conditions in which mutual trust is appropriate, and in which even the more powerful can prove trustworthy (Baier, 1994, p. 179).
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The error Baier commits here is assuming that teaching our children to speak is a moral undertaking. Because morality is about power for Baier—specifically about the equalization of power—she sees teaching children to speak as a moral act because it empowers them. But teaching children to speak is not necessarily a moral act (and it is not equivalent with ‘raising our children’), for one cannot abuse another with words if the other does not know how to speak: teaching children language not only empowers them but also opens them up to certain abuses, abuses which some would argue are far more cruel than those that can be afflicted upon the speechless. I imagine one may argue that not teaching our children how to speak (and not raising our children) is a morally culpable act. That is certainly true; but that way of putting it creates the illusion that a moral decision is involved, as if I decide to teach my children language. That obscures our nature as language users and demystifies (wrongly so) Wittgenstein’s question. Holland’s comments about the relativizing nature of explanation are applicable to Baier’s work on trust. Baier’s account of trust is peppered with the language of instrumentalism, and that language presents itself when she examines the ‘why’ of trusting, relativizing trust to some personal project or to personal well being or power, and making the notion of ‘risk’ integral to the notion of trust. This is evident in her essay in Moral Prejudices, ‘Trusting People’, where she writes, By cooperative trusting behavior the truster renounces some of her own small power to control matters, and as long as the more powerful trusted one wants what the truster wants, this voluntary renunciation of control will advance the truster’s goals, will get her where she wants to be, and will often help her to increase her own strength and ability. When matters work out well, her voluntary giving up of power will be an investment whose returns will be an ultimate increase for her. But if things go badly, she will be harmed, not helped, by her trusting. Risk is of the very essence of trust (Baier, 1994, p. 196).
Baier suggests that good forms of trust ‘are self-sustaining and … tend to produce meta-trust, trust in trust-involving relationships and forms of cooperation’. She continues, ‘Trust in sustained trust, trust in it in full knowledge of its risks as well as benefits, and trustworthiness to sustain trust may well be the supreme virtues for ones like us, in our condition.’ In this article, she wants ‘to increase our understanding of our own selective trust in selective trust, to increase our self-consciousness of our own capacities for creating the conditions of sensible trusting’ (Baier, 1994, pp. 185–8). Those capacities, she notes, appear to be inborn; distrust seems to increase with age: We do seem to expect that with increase of age there will come increased acceptance of the maxim that there is no free lunch … But for the four-year-old it is usually just false that there is no free lunch—her lunch does not normally come poisoned or with strings attached, so there is no very good reason why she should be suspicious of what seem to be free gifts. And even for forty- and
Trusting Others, Trusting God sixty-year-olds there can be free gifts, which it would be graceless to refuse (Baier, 1994, p. 190).
In ‘Trust and Antitrust’, Baier writes as if the more mature a trust relationship is, the more suspicion is involved. (She does not seem to notice that increased risk means the relationship is, hence, more fragile and less sensible.) But here she portrays trust as natural, albeit primitive. The four-year-old trusts reasonably that her lunch is free, since ‘it is usually just false that there is no free lunch’ for her. However, we grow out of our primitiveness, and as we do so, it becomes reasonable to distrust. Presumably, it is more likely that a 40- or 60-year-old will be poisoned, and thus they are correct to be suspicious of a ‘free’ lunch. Primitive trust is reasonable in children since the risks they take in trusting are, apparently, minimal. Baier writes, ‘We begin as natural beggars, trusting that our begging hands will get bread, not a stone, and having no natural inclination to bite the hand that feeds us. From the start we engage in some more or less equal exchanges (of smiles) and venture into some mutual trustings, slowly progressing to less restricted equalities and more equal reciprocities.’ A person might start out from a position of distrust, but he or she is ‘handicapped’: Any who are burdened from the start with distrust of those who offer food or care will be severely handicapped, and trustworthiness toward them will call for special skills and virtues, but it will not be judgment that such special caretakers will first be trying to impart as much as prejudgment attitudes, the very capacity to trust. Unless we have that, there will be no scope for judgments about whom to trust or about what matters to trust to a particular person … Some innate or soon acquired willingness to show some trust in those who stand in a parental capacity to the child is the primitive basis of other, more judgmentmediated, trustings (Baier, 1994, pp. 201–2).
Baier makes trust a superannuated attitude, necessary for the flourishing of any infant, but shrinking to disuse and obscurity by adulthood, except that adults can use trust to teach trust to children, and thus teach them not to bite (and again she has infused the concept of trust with instrumentalism). Baier sought a foundation for everyday trust in order to make the ‘risk’ involved appear rational. But does trust require a foundation? The drive to demystify trust relativizes that trust to whatever criterion one chooses for assessing foundations, and makes trust serve some objective criterion external to the trust relationship. It prevents the articulation of certain moral points of view—points of view where trust and trustworthiness are seen as ends in themselves, as is waiting on another to provide the criterion for what good will amounts to. We cooperate with each other in many ways, including our use of language. We simply do. I began this chapter with an examination of Annette Baier’s ‘Trust and Antitrust’, wherein she tries to replace the contract model of trust with a new
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model capable of appreciating trust relationships between non-equals. Her aim is to provide a basis from which we may judge when such relationships are morally good or morally bad. Baier highlights some of the shortcomings of the contract model, such as its explicitness, its inability to account for the subtlety of our more common trust relationships, and its focus on relationships between those equal in power. While Baier’s account is perceptive, it suffers from a vein of instrumentalism that not only renders her description incapable of accounting for common human relationships such as friendship, but also leads her back into the quandary of explicitness. In attempting to provide a rational basis for trust, Baier looks for more or less tangible goods attained via trusting. Underlying her work is the Hobbes-like belief that trust leads to, and is necessary for, commodious living. Unlike Hobbes, however, she does not believe that trust can be won by force; Baier believes that trust begets trust, that social life is brought about by extending one’s hand to the other; risky, yes, but leading ultimately to peaceful, harmonious habits. It is this association of trust with risk that is particularly problematic. In most of our trust relationships risk is simply not an issue. Baier defines trust relationships as ‘accepted vulnerability’, rendering all of our trust relations as power relations. The problems inherent in Baier’s work stem from her view that language must correspond to something in reality. She strives to elucidate what is trusted in a given relationship, and why such risks are taken. Olli Lagerspetz’s criticisms of Baier’s work question the need to find something to which trust corresponds. He suggests that the concept of trust is empty of content; in other words, there is no mental state or other phenomena associated with my trusting someone. The word trust makes sense when used from the perspective of a third party—you may look at my relationship with my spouse and conclude that I trust him; but if the question of my trusting him is to arise for me, the character of my trust is changed. Lagerspetz, as I mentioned, overplays this point. Trust can be made conscious without losing its integrity. There is, however, much validity in his point: many of our trust relationships seem to be unconscious and unreflected; and in many cases, when we talk about trust, or when the issue of someone’s trustworthiness is raised, such talk indicates not trust but suspicion. It is likely that there are two uses of the word trust involved—one that is usually unconscious, unable to be made explicit, and prior to judgment; and one that is often conscious, can often be made explicit, and usually subject to judgment. Many of the problems arising in Baier’s work (and the work of others) stem from the tendency to conflate these two forms of trust. Baier goes on to seek a foundation for the phenomenon of trust itself, attempting to ground it in the cooperative practice of language. While language does involve some form of cooperation, Baier, like Peter Winch in his article ‘Nature and Convention’, attribute moral significance to this cooperation. But that is folly—the form of cooperation that enables language is not moral in nature. The attempt to find grounds for the phenomena of trust is again a product of the correspondence theory of language. R. F. Holland suggests that this attempt obscures the nature of truth-telling. I would add that it also obscures the ‘civility’ that enables language,
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since it only explains an instrumental form of truth-telling for the sake of the social order, and not a morality in which truth-telling is valued as an end in itself. In order to come to a fuller understanding of concepts like trust, we perhaps need to be ready to leave some things unexplained, to let mystery lie where it may. References Baier, Annette (1986), ‘Trust and Antitrust’, Ethics 96: 231–60. _____ (1994), Moral Prejudices: Essays on Ethics, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. _____ (1997), ‘Response to Olli Lagerspetz’, in Lilli Alanen, Sara Heināmaa and Thomas Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Hertzberg, Lars (1988), ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Inquiry 31: 307–22. Holland, R. F. (1980), ‘Is Goodness a Mystery?’, in Against Empiricism: On Education, Epistemology and Value, Barnes & Noble, Totowa, New Jersey. Lagerspetz, Olli (1997), ‘The Notion of Trust in Philosophical Psychology’, in Lilli Alanen, Sara Heināmaa and Thomas Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Steinbeck, John (1937), Of Mice and Men, Penguin Books, New York. Winch, Peter (1972), ‘Nature and Convention’, in Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. _____ (1989), Simone Weil: the Just Balance, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1958), Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed., trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Macmillan, New York.
Trust and Primitive Reactions
Being prepared to go along with what another intimates—to comfort him if he expresses pain or grief, to return a smile, to approach if he beckons … is basically what constitutes understanding these human forms of expression, and is accordingly part of what it means to see another as a human being.—Lars Hertzberg, ‘On the Attitude of Trust’
In the previous chapter, I noted that Annette Baier characterizes trust as vestigial— necessary for the thriving of children, but best lost by adulthood. In this chapter, I want to explore the idea of primitive trust and to ask whether primitive trust is at work in our cooperation with one another; that is, instead of looking at the idea of trust as vestigial, I want to examine a concept of trust in which trust is a primitive reaction in relation to human life itself. We have already seen that the cooperation necessary for language is not itself moral in nature; yet there are many other ways in which we cooperate with each other, ways that allow us not only to speak a language, but to learn language in the first place. Lars Hertzberg suggests that there is a type of trust that is necessary prior to learning and which is primitive in that it is not only prior to judgment, but also is what enables one to learn the criteria for judgment. In the previous chapter, I briefly cited Lars Hertzberg’s paper, ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, in which he examines ‘the nature of trust and its role in learning’. I want to look at that work more closely now. Hertzberg criticizes contemporary philosophical discussions of trust that focus, he believes, not on trust, but on reliance. That misplaced gaze, he believes, is the reason that philosophers usually have failed to understand the merits of trust, advocated the superiority of suspicion, and characterized trust as a weakness. As a result of Hertzberg’s complete bifurcation of trust and reliance, he avoids some of the problems haunting Baier’s work. Reliance, for Hertzberg, is a conditional stance towards another in which one believes that the other will do (or will not do) some specific act. In contrast to reliance, he offers a conception of trust that is not conditional, and which he terms an ‘attitude of trust’, or ‘trust in’ another person. Like Baier, Hertzberg also characterizes trust as superannuated, but his account is not consistent. While he describes the loss of trust as a necessary part of growing into adulthood, he also wants to say that trust is primary in human relationships and that it is an attitude of distrust that requires explanation.
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The Attitude of Trust Discussions of trust by contemporary philosophers have centered on the connection between believing a person and believing what that person says, where trust is the result of judging another’s statements to be true; but, as Lars Hertzberg insists, this approach to trust ignores the many forms of trust that are a part of human relationships in which judging what another says as true has little or no part. Hertzberg writes, Besides, even when we consider the role of trust simply in the context of our learning to make judgments where the concept of truth is relevant, it should be clear that an account along those lines will not do. For learning to judge cannot begin with our accepting what others say as the truth. Regarding a statement as true is itself an exercise of judgment, which becomes possible only on a comparatively advanced level of understanding: the decision to accept a judgment cannot be meaningfully attributed to someone who is not yet in a position to reject it … Believing what others say is a refinement of other, more basic forms of trust. Only in a context constituted by trust, we might say, do truth and the making of statements have a place. We must begin by trying to understand the nature of trust as a primitive reaction (Hertzberg, p. 309).
Thus, the concept of trust that Hertzberg desires to elucidate is ‘a more basic form of trust’—one that is prior to the judgment that someone is speaking the truth. Hertzberg here is attempting to get at a notion of trust that falls under both moral and epistemological categories. To introduce his notion of trust, Hertzberg first discusses trust in relation to fear. However, his opening example in ‘On the Attitude of Trust’ is notoriously problematic. The example is as follows: ‘The knife in my friend’s hand is not frightening to me; I know he will not attack me. Perhaps I know too that he will protect me from the attacks of others, and that the knife will help him’ (Hertzberg, p. 309). As we are given no context of impending danger or past psychosis, we confront a strange friendship indeed if the knife in his friend’s hand is at issue. Under what circumstances would this make sense? Perhaps his friend has a history of violent psychological disturbances. The point is that we need some extraordinary context in order to make sense of it; without that context, Hertzberg’s example is not helpful, as it is not an example that we may typically encounter. Typically, the question of the possibility of our friend stabbing us does not arise. Like Baier, Hertzberg encounters problems originating from the attempt to give a positive account of an empty concept. In ‘On Trusting Intellectuals on Trust’, D. Z. Phillips comments on Hertzberg’s example: ‘We need a context before we can say whether it is appropriate to speak of trust here at all. Suppose that I am in the kitchen of my friend’s house and that he is cutting bread. The issue of whether he will attack me
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does not arise, but, simply for that reason, does it make sense to say that I trust my friend and do not believe that he will attack me? Surely, this suggestion is strained and unreal’ (Phillips, 2002, p. 45). Far from illustrating a relationship of trust between Hertzberg and his friend, the unfortunate example rather demonstrates how talk of trust can point instead to a context of distrust. That Hertzberg misses this point is due perhaps to the fact that it always makes sense to say that we trust our friends. The problem may be brought out if we look at Marcel Sarot’s ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’. Sarot borrows language from Amélie Rorty’s discussion of emotions in order to bring out some of the salient features of trust relationships, specifically Rorty’s distinction between ‘objects’ and ‘targets’. The ‘object’ of trust is ‘the overall object’, while the ‘target’ refers to ‘the particular aspect relevant to the emotion’. He explains: ‘When I fear an oncoming Pit Bull Terrier, this dog is the object of my fear and the dog’s aggressive behaviour, that gives rise to the expectation that he might bite me, the target. But I do not fear all the characteristics of the dog, e.g., its inclination towards tail-wagging in certain circumstances’ (Sarot, p. 103). We can apply this language to Hertzberg’s example in order to highlight where that example goes astray: If (atypically) Hertzberg fears the knife in his friend’s hand, then we may say that the knife-in-hand is the object of Hertzberg’s fear, and the friend’s willingness to use the knife for violence towards Hertzberg is the target of his fear. The problem here is that ‘willingness to use the knife for violence towards Hertzberg’ and ‘Hertzberg’s friend’ are incompatible concepts in any usual sense. The example does not work because it presents a conceptually awkward situation and we are given no context in which we could make sense of it. The friendship predetermines, as it were, that the knife in question is not an object of fear. Hertzberg states that the point of this example is to show that, while in certain cases trust ‘is like the confident belief that I shall be carried safely past the danger … it enters into my relation to the object of fear’ (Hertzberg, p. 309). Thus, the trust that his friend will not use the knife-in-hand to harm Hertzberg is like a confident belief that the friend will not harm him. However, it is questionable whether the term ‘belief’ is even appropriate here. The very definition of ‘friend’ negates the possibility of that fear arising; and the concept of friendship ‘enters into’ the relationship in such a way that the knife is not an object of fear. Thus, friendship in some manner defines Hertzberg’s relationship to the knife in his friend’s hand. Leaving this example aside, Hertzberg continues, ‘In some cases more than this has to be involved in a trustful attitude’ (Hertzberg, p. 309). What does he mean? This something more, he writes, is ‘something like trust in God’, and he turns to the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Isaac trusted his father and, ignorant of Abraham’s intent, followed him willingly to Moriah. But had Isaac known what was planned for him, Hertzberg notes, he would have needed ‘a deeper sort of Sarot cites Cheshire Calhoun and Robert C. Solomon, ‘Introduction’, in What Is an Emotion? Classic Reading in Philosophical Psychology (Oxford, 1984), p. 28.
Trusting Others, Trusting God
trust’ in order to continue the journey. This trust, he writes, is ‘not just a belief that nothing he feared could befall him from his father, … but the conviction that whatever came to him through his father, even if it was precisely that which he feared, was still something to be accepted’. Thus, Isaac would need to welcome his own death precisely because it is his father that delivers him unto his death. That would be an extraordinary trust indeed. Isaac’s ‘trust would then have to be similar to his father’s trust in God’. Abraham’s obedience to God was so great that he was willing to put his own son to death. This obedience ‘expressed the thought that God’s command was able by itself to constitute the action as a good’. ‘Isaac’s attitude towards his father’, Hertzberg writes, ‘does not simply enter into his relation to the objects of his fear, but rather establishes a new relation to them: while he may still fear them, he has now at the same time come to see them as things to be accepted, maybe even sought for … In this sort of way an understanding of what it means to have reasons for acting or not acting in a certain way becomes possible’ (Hertzberg, p. 310). What Hertzberg wants to demonstrate is that trust is not to be thought of merely in relation to one’s needs and desires. By indicating something as an object of my desire, ‘I express an attitude towards this desire, implying that … I regard it as acceptable (or as making sense, or the like) to act on it. So I must already have learnt to take part in discussions about actions being or not being acceptable, making or failing to make sense …’ This sense of trust is prior to the judgment of right or wrong, and, like trust in God, is an attitude that indeed makes that judgment possible. Isaac, if he trusts Abraham in this way, is able to judge not merely whether his father’s plan of action is right or wrong; he, trusting his father as his father trusts God, is already prone to seeing his father’s actions in a certain light, a light which determines them to be ‘good’, whatever they may be. Isaac’s relationship to his father would then not be one merely of Abraham as fulfiller of Isaac’s needs and desires (certainly Isaac neither needs nor desires to be a sacrifice), for Abraham himself is in some way responsible for whatever needs or desires Isaac could hold. In addition, the dependence that Isaac has upon his father for his having certain needs and desires involves the sense of trust that Hertzberg is trying to elucidate. Hertzberg writes, ‘the idea of something speaking in favour of an action can only acquire meaning for a child through someone’s speaking in its favour. In this way, coming to have an understanding of good and bad, of things mattering, presupposes a fundamental dependence on other people’ (Hertzberg, pp. 310–11). Therefore, this basic attitude of trust colors, and indeed determines, what and whether something is to be an object of fear at all, as well as one’s attitude towards the objects of his fear. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, which I cited in the previous chapter, provides an example illustrating many aspects of trust relationships, specifically the type of relationship that Hertzberg wishes to elucidate. In Steinbeck’s novel, the two characters, Lennie and George share a story portraying their vision of their future that expresses the possibility of meaning that life holds for the men. The story conveys a world in which a man like Lennie can find peace and happiness,
Trust and Primitive Reactions
where ‘Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ’em …’ George’s voice became deeper. He repeated the words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. ‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow’ their stake, and the firs thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.’ Lennie was delighted. ‘That’s it—that’s it. Now tell it how it is with us.’ George went on. ‘With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.’ Lennie broke in. ‘But not us! An’ why? Because … because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.’ He laughed delightedly. ‘Go on now, George!’ ‘You got it by heart. You can do it yourself.’ ‘No, you. I forget some a’ the things. Tell about how it’s gonna be.’ ‘O.K. Someday—we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and —’ ‘An’ live off the fatta the lan’’, Lennie shouted. ‘An have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is one the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that, George’ (Steinbeck, pp. 13–14).
The relationship of Steinbeck’s characters goes beyond a mere reliance on their good will towards one another. For George, the relationship and its possibilities make life meaningful. But that is not all. The bond between the men makes it possible for us to see the killing of an innocent man not only as justifiable, but as the necessary and right thing to do. Lennie has given George the power to determine what counts as right and wrong, but it is also true that Lennie in some way defines right and wrong for George. This aspect of trust remains hidden if we understand trust as mere reliance. In the previous chapter, I cited four points that Hertzberg makes regarding the distinction between trust and reliance in his essay, ‘On the Attitude of Trust’. I repeat them here:
Trusting Others, Trusting God
1. To rely on someone is to exercise one’s judgment concerning him. 2. Reliance has a more or less specific content: one relies on a person for particular purposes. 3. Relying on someone involves the thought of independent standards by which it is judged whether or not my reliance on him was misplaced; reliance is conditional on those standards being met. 4. My relying on someone is conceptually independent of whatever attitude I take to him in other respects … reliance seems not to be, essentially an attitude towards a person. The ways in which one may rely on a tool, a measuring instrument, a horse, etc., seem to be analogous to the ways in which one may rely on people (Hertzberg, p. 312). These four points illustrate how the grammars of trust and reliance differ. As we have seen, the trust that Hertzberg is trying to describe is prior to judgment and thus cannot involve the exercise of judgment or the application of standards. It is here that Hertzberg draws his primary examples, which are employed as cases showing where the grammar of reliance does not suit cases of trust. Again, he runs into difficulties in attempting to give positive content to a concept that is empty of content. Hertzberg attempts to illustrate his point by examining the development of trust in three periods of a child’s initiation into his or her world. Although these periods are in actuality continuous and indistinct, we may separate them for purposes of examination: primary initiation into the form of life or his or her community; initiation into certain social institutions, and initiation into ‘particular forms of discourse and inquiry’. These periods form a ‘continuous transition from the learning of general to the learning of specialized skills and attitudes, and from situations in which the emphasis is on doing things to situations in which it is on knowing truths … The dependence involved in intimate human relations will gradually be extended into the kind of trust that constitutes the basic framework of life in a human society’ (Hertzberg, pp. 313–14); thus, we should not expect clear and distinct ‘phases’ in the development of trust. Hertzberg fleshes out these examples in reverse order, beginning initiation into particular forms of discourse and inquiry. He is interested in the role that trust plays in learning and his desire to show trust as a primitive reaction is inspired by a discussion of trust, in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty, as necessary for learning: As children we learn facts; e.g., that every human being has a brain, and we take them on trust. I believe that there is an island, Australia, of such-and-such a shape, and so on and so on; I believe that I had great-grand-parents, that the people who gave themselves out as my parents really were my parents, etc. The child learns by believing the adult. Doubt comes after belief (OC, §§159–60; Wittgenstein, 1991, p. 23).
Trust and Primitive Reactions
I really want to say that a language-game is only possible if one trusts something [I did not say ‘can trust something’] (OC §509; Wittgenstein, 1991, p. 66).
Hertzberg’s first example, the child’s initiation into his community (and perhaps also his initiation into particular social institutions), seems to fit naturally into Wittgenstein’s use of trust because it is learning by children that Wittgenstein discusses in the above-mentioned citation. But it is also with the first example that Hertzberg notes that the use of the term ‘trust’ is misleading, and he qualifies this example by calling the attitude that an infant has towards its parents, not trust per se, but proto-trust. He writes that a child’s ‘spontaneous activities and responses’ are ‘guided’ by his or her parents. In this process, parents teach children what is permissible and what is not permissible, what the child may eat and what he or she may not eat. ‘His expressive behaviour evokes responses, is encouraged and gradually shaped into what will constitute ways of using language’ by his parents or other elders with whom he ‘feels secure’ (Hertzberg, p. 313). But this example of an infant–parent relationship is not a fully fledged trust relationship. Portraying an infant–parent relationship as if the infant lets the parent guide his or her behavior because he or she trusts the parent is not credible, since that suggests that the infant made some kind of choice or judgment about the parent’s trustworthiness. This further implies that the infant has a rather sophisticated understanding of his parents. Hertzberg writes, This in turn would presuppose on the part of the child an understanding of the identity of those to whom he took up this attitude, that is, some recognition of those confronting him as human beings, or as these particular human beings. He would also have to understand that they had certain intentions, etc. Of course, the idea that such an understanding might lie at the basis of the child’s relation to his elders is absurd. What is in question are simply the child’s natural ways of reacting to other people. In fact, were the child to react to his environment in any way other than this, we should be at a loss to recognize in his activities the behaviour of a human being … The upshot of this is that it would be misleading to say, ‘The child behaves in this way because he trusts the adults’, rather he simply behaves in this way, and out of this relation (perhaps it could be less misleadingly described as an absence of distrust) there gradually evolve attitudes which may be called distrustful (Hertzberg, p. 316).
Hertzberg’s account again runs into trouble here. He wants a notion of trust in which trust, in contrast to reliance, is prior to judgment. However, he makes it requisite that one be able to make a choice if one can be said to trust another, where choice is dependent upon cognition and understanding of the other as a particular, intentional human being. In other words, while Hertzberg claims to want trust that is prior to judgment, at this point he insists that judgment be prior to trust. This suggests that here he is reverting to trust conceived as mere reliance. Hertzberg apparently does not see the inconsistency. One can be incapable of choice and
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capable of trust at the same time, and perhaps, as suggested earlier, one cannot choose to trust. If we do employ the term ‘trust’ in describing the infant’s attitude, we understand the term to have a very limited content—limited to, perhaps, only that which is captured by Hertzberg’s use, in the citation above, of the phrase ‘individuals … with whom he feels secure’. The concept of trust here has some applicability, but only as a third-person judgment on the interactions of the infant with the people with whom he is secure, in contrast to persons with whom he is insecure. The second case Hertzberg mentions is initiation into certain social institutions. He explains this as follows: ‘e.g., learning to walk in the street, to use public transportation. Learning about the use of money, buying from shops, etc. Learning to read newspapers, to use the telephone and postal systems, to deal with public officials, etc.’ (Hertzberg, p. 313). Hertzberg sees this as another step towards the type of trust that lies at the basis of human society, suggesting that trust is not superannuated; however, this stands in opposition to his account of human development as involving the loss of trust. He writes, ‘The distrustful person is someone who has been damaged by other people. No matter that this, to an extent, is what happens normally in the process of growing up: the destruction of our trust in others is a tragedy of life, a fall from grace’ (Hertzberg, p. 320). Finally, there is Hertzberg’s discussion of ‘initiation into particular forms of discourse and inquiry. Learning mathematics, history, geography, etc.’ It is here that Hertzberg makes the most of the distinction between trust and reliance. He writes, ‘Only in these situations does the learning of “truths” occupy a central position.’ However, the grammar of reliance is not applicable here because trusting one’s teachers does not involve exercising one’s judgment. (What Hertzberg has in mind here is the learning of school-aged children.) ‘The learner,’ he writes, ‘has no advance understanding of the aim of the instruction, hence nothing will constitute, for him, evidence of his teachers’ reliability or unreliability in the matter at hand. The learner is not in a position to impose conditions on his trust, since the standards of assessing the teachers’ performance are only made accessible to him through their performance.’ This trust is then unconditional: ‘If I trust someone, I cannot at the same time reserve for myself the judgment concerning the purposes for which he is to be trusted. It is from him that I learn what he has to teach me. I go along.’ What the student learns, Hertzberg writes, is ‘a new application for the concept of truth … the standard of truth in this area’ (Hertzberg, pp. 313–14). Of course, other applications for the concept of truth were already learned in the two previous cases. Hertzberg’s discussion of the development of trust (with the exception of his problematic discussion of infant proto-trust) supports his claim that trust can be prior to judgment. This is an important point of contrast with reliance, since reliance is not prior to judgment but depends upon it. He explains: The grammar of reliance fits a situation in which I take up an attitude towards a person because I believe certain things about him; a situation involving trust,
Trust and Primitive Reactions
on the other hand, is one in which I may come to believe certain things because I have an attitude towards a person. When I trust someone, it is him I trust; I do not trust certain things about him. If I trust someone there cannot be certain respects in which I distrust him. Distrusting him would mean that I myself retained the ultimate judgment concerning the respects in which he was to be trusted; but then I would not really have placed my trust in him. (I may, however, consider someone I trust partly unreliable: this is so because I may not rely on him to be himself in all circumstances. On the other hand, of course, I may rely on someone I do not trust.) (Hertzberg, p. 314)
Therefore, trusting someone, in contrast to relying on her, involves a certain openness or willingness to let the other be a source of judgment. Reliance involves, fundamentally, a prior act of judgment; or, to put it another way, reliance is a result of judgment. Hertzberg continues, Perhaps this could also be expressed as follows: when I trust someone, he as it were embodies goodness, or reason, for me. And, as was suggested before, it is only because there are people to whom I have this attitude that I can acquire an understanding of goodness or reason. (On the other hand, my idea of what is good or reasonable cannot be formed or influenced from my relying on someone, since my reliance is simply an expression of what I judge to be reasonable to begin with. Of course, reliance may grow into trust.) (Hertzberg, pp. 314–15)
In delineating this primitive form of trust from reliance, Hertzberg presents a limit case of trust and this limit is precisely what Annette Baier sought to avoid. This primitive trust leaves the truster prey to the trusted. As Hertzberg writes, ‘In relying on someone I as it were look down on him from above. I exercise my command of the world. I remain the judge of his actions. In trusting someone I look up from below. I learn from the other what the world is about. I let him be the judge of my actions’ (Hertzberg, p. 315). Baier wants to secure for the truster an elevated point of view by which he or she may always judge the actions of the trusted. She characterizes such an extreme case as Hertzberg’s primitive trust as irrational and childish. But it was this inability to push all the way to the limit of trust—to fully rid the concept of any degree of ‘reliance’—that kept Baier mired in instrumentalist language and short of a concept of trust capable of being the foundation of the ethical theory she sought. ‘The inclination to view trust as a weakness,’ Hertzberg insists, is based on a failure to take note of another facet of the contrast between the grammars of trust and reliance … the way responsibility is allocated. If I was wrong in relying on someone, this was a failure in my judgment: it would have been better if I was more astute. When someone’s trust has been misplaced, however, it is always … a misunderstanding to regard that as a shortcoming on his part. The responsibility rests with the person who failed the trust. The reason
Trusting Others, Trusting God for this is that, unlike reliance, the grammar of trust involves a perspective of justice: trust can only concern that which one person can rightfully demand of another (Hertzberg, p. 319).
The responsibility involved in being trusted, Hertzberg suggests, is expressed in ‘our speaking of a person as having (possessing) another’s trust’ (Hertzberg, p. 320). While Baier was certainly aware of the blameworthiness of the wrongly trusted, she was not able to fully absolve the truster from the indictment of poor judgment. Since Baier’s motive in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ was to find a measure of the moral status of trust relationships among non-equals, the ability to describe trusters who are not open to such a charge is important. Children and the mentally ill, for example, may not be capable of the judgment that reliance demands. Moreover, in Baier’s example of the husband and wife at odds over whether their children would be raised in the way of patriarchy or not, her focus on the relationship between the husband and wife and the possible risks they faced ignores the trust that the children have in their parents—a trust which is necessary if her example is to have any force. Without that primitive form of trust, the mother’s alarm at her husband’s method of child-rearing cannot be understood since she does not reject patriarchy because of the risks or gains it provides her children. She rejects it in total, not only the judgments patriarchy renders, but also the very method of making judgments that patriarchy employs. She rejects it as a form of life, one that she does not want her children to share. I stated that Hertzberg’s concept of trust is a limit case. Specifically, that limit case is reached when a person ‘embodies goodness, or reason, for me’. What makes Hertzberg’s concept extreme is not the idea that trust can be prior to judgment, but rather the idea that one person (or even perhaps a small group of persons) can embody goodness and reason. Certainly, in the case of a child, her trust in her parents is total until a certain age; and the moral status of parent–child relationships is generally not called into question. We witness evidence that such trust can persist into adulthood; for example, in the work of religious cults like Heaven’s Gate (in fact, the cultivation of such primitive trust may be the defining mark of a ‘cult’). It is frightening to see such extreme trust persist into adulthood, but what is morally repugnant about such cults is the desire and ability of cult leaders to exploit the trust of their followers, and the blame, as Hertzberg suggests, lies with the trusted. But perhaps Baier would be relieved to note that the danger of primitive trust lies, again, not in the fact that it is prior to judgment, but that it is trust in one person, or one group of persons. Most friendships, for example, will exhibit some degree of primitive trust. My idea of goodness and reason is informed, in part, by my friends and family, my society, the literature I read, etc. What is more, Hertzberg’s account may suggest that only a relationship of trust can inform one’s concepts of good and bad; but it is certainly true that those concepts can be and are informed by relationships of distrust and neutrality. An abused child may learn that abusing others is morally wrong in reaction to his abusive parents.
Trust and Primitive Reactions
Another point overlooked in Hertzberg’s account is that it is not only the trusted that is able to destroy a trust relationship. An illustration of this point can be found in Colette’s short story, ‘The Other Wife’. A happy, recently married couple is dining at a seaside restaurant when the husband tells his wife that his exwife, dressed in white, is also dining there. The current wife, Colette tells us, ‘bore the overly conspicuous marks of extreme happiness’. That extreme happiness is checked when her husband tells her why his previous marriage failed: ‘She wasn’t happy with me … I just didn’t know how to make her happy, that’s all. I didn’t know how.’ These words cause a change in the current wife: She was looking furtively, and closely, at her husband’s face, ruddy and regular; at his thick hair, threaded here and there with white silk; at his short, well-caredfor hands; and doubtful for the first time, she asked herself, ‘What more did she want from him?’ And as they were leaving, while Marc was paying the bill and asking for the chauffeur and about the route, she kept looking, with envy and curiosity, at the woman in white, this dissatisfied, this difficult, this superior … (Colette, pp. 20–21)
The attitude of Colette’s new wife quickly turns from bliss to doubt. By the end of the story, she no longer trusts her husband to make her happy and she no longer trusts her own judgment as to what constitutes happiness. Is she disappointed and damaged? Yes, but it is her own doing. Her husband is not responsible for that change; nor is his first wife. The idea that he is not the perfect man for making a woman happy, that there is more to happiness than what he can provide, is what turns her mind. Or, better, it is her acceptance of that idea as a viable idea that turns her. And it is wrong to think that she chooses distrust; rather, the idea compels her. In Colette’s story, we are presented with an example where a new idea hangs like an irresistible carrot in front of a woman’s eyes. Hertzberg states that ‘trust involves responsibility on the part of the person who is the object of trust’, but we can also see, by Colette’s example, that it is not always the one trusted who destroys trust. While Hertzberg’s work on trust enables us to avoid the pratfalls of trust conceived of as reliance, some problems arise with respect to the application of his concept of trust. This problem was highlighted by Hertzberg’s example of a friend with a knife in his hand. D. Z. Phillips writes, Should the fact that we do not question certain things, in the ways depicted in On Certainty, be called a matter of ‘trust’ at all? Wittgenstein has difficulty in finding a word to depict our relation to, or involvement in, our ways of acting. He has this difficulty because any word he chooses already has an employment elsewhere in our discourse. These employments are more sophisticated than the contexts Wittgenstein wants to discuss. This applies to applications of the notion
Trusting Others, Trusting God of trust. As a result, speaking of ‘trust’ in relation to contexts Wittgenstein has in mind seems strained, or even confused (Phillips, 2002, p. 44).
As noted previously, the idea that my friend with the knife in his hand will harm me simply does not arise in usual circumstances. And the situations that Wittgenstein is interested in, cited by Hertzberg, are situations where children learn facts. It does not make sense to suggest that the possibility of their elders teaching falsehoods arises to children. Furthermore, Phillips writes, Hertzberg does not see the depth and breadth of the difficulties involved, which become evident if we think about what it would mean if we lacked the trust that Wittgenstein is trying to get at. Lacking the certainty that Wittgenstein discusses would lead one to madness, but it is not evident that madness would result from lacking the trust that Hertzberg is considering. Phillips writes, One would not speak of a mistake as one would when, given good reasons, one still fails to trust someone. Rather, if the child does not respond to the languagespeakers in its neighbourhood, it will be cut off from discourse with them. It will not be in a position to say whether it agrees or disagrees with what is being said, since it will not be able to speak at all. Again, if a person could be convinced that he was not handling familiar objects in familiar circumstances, that people he had known all his life were quite other than what he had taken them to be, he’d think he was going insane (Phillips, 2002, p. 44).
Hertzberg does try to connect the loss of trust with madness towards the end of his article. However, that he also states that the loss of trust is a normal part of adulthood signals that some confusion exists. Another clue that Hertzberg’s notion of trust cannot be equated with Wittgenstein’s more basic concept is the inherent moral dimension of trust that Wittgenstein’s concept lacks. Furthermore, Wittgenstein is interested in a type of certainty required for learning, a certainty that is not subject to doubt and evidence. But learning can still go on if one lacks Hertzberg’s sense of ‘trust in’ another. Children do not have to ‘trust in’ their teachers in order to learn; in fact, many children fear or dislike their teachers. Children merely have to take what their teachers say as facts (and, in fact, they don’t generally take them otherwise). Hertzberg plainly shows that human beings come to an understanding of the meaning of right and wrong, good and bad, as well as social norms and customs through friendship and familial relationships, but what Wittgenstein wants to get at in On Certainty is different. It is more basic, more primitive. In a previous chapter, we saw that while language fundamentally relies on language users speaking the truth, an appeal to language cannot provide an ethic of truthfulness. A similar point can be made here: While something like trust must be present in order for human beings to learn concepts like reason and goodness, that ‘quasi-trust’ does not itself provide an ethic of trust; the concept which Wittgenstein tries to elucidate is not a moral concept.
Trust and Primitive Reactions
An Attitude towards a Soul Even if Hertzberg’s concept of trust cannot be equated with the concepts with which Wittgenstein concerned himself in On Certainty, we may still want to say that this primitive form of trust is normative and that distrust requires an explanation, specifically, an explanation of the ‘damage’ done to a trusting person. ‘Trust,’ Hertzberg writes, ‘is implicit in many of the primary reactions of one human being to another. It is the loss of this way of reacting that has to be made intelligible, by invoking, say, the effects of experience or instruction’ (Hertzberg, p. 317). As was noted in the previous chapter, Olli Lagerspetz points out that the grammar of the word trust (normally) implies a situation of distrust: ‘The language of certainty belongs to a situation where certainty is called into question’, and in fact, ‘it is deviations from the norm that make it meaningful to use the word at all. ‘Trust’ then is like ‘innocence’. The word has a meaning because people are not always innocent; but they start off as innocent’ (Lagerspetz, 1997, pp. 99–100). Trust, Hertzberg and Lagerspetz argue, is not only the norm in human interactions, but is in fact basic to our very understanding of the concept of a human being. Hertzberg writes, ‘Being prepared to go along with that another intimates—to comfort him if he expresses pain or grief, to return a smile, to approach if he beckons …—is basically what constitutes understanding these human forms of expression, and is accordingly part of what it means to see another as a human being.’ ‘Distrust’, in contrast, is not conceivable … until a fairly advanced stage of human relations. The little child is no more capable of suspicion than he is of deceit. Distrust is an outcome of experience, that is, of disappointment. The child’s shyness of strangers is not a case of distrust. If the child is merely shy, he is not awaiting the proof of the stranger’s good intentions … Being on one’s guard is a different thing altogether. The child learns to be on his guard through being shaken out of his trust; say, through finding himself an object of ridicule, malice, envy or suspicion. Whether he will have that experience depends partly on the circumstances, partly on his character (Hertzberg, p. 318).
What is more, Hertzberg relates trust to our very understanding of the human and is embedded in our primitive actions and reactions to one another. Given this, Hertzberg insists that distrust, rather than trust, requires explanation. ‘Being prepared to go along with what another intimates … is what basically constitutes understanding these human forms of expression, and is accordingly part of what it means to see another as a human being’ (Hertzberg, p. 317). The description Hertzberg offers is similar to that given by Peter Winch in discussing what he terms, borrowing from Wittgenstein, ‘an attitude towards a soul’. Winch argues that our moral responses to other human beings are a part of our general response to other human beings, and I suggest that it is this general response that Hertzberg labels as trust. Even if Wittgenstein’s work in
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On Certainty does not shed any light on primitive trust, there may still be some understanding to be gained by examining his logical and epistemological writings regarding our unreflective reactions to other human beings. Peter Winch believes that Wittgenstein’s work in Philosophical Investigations is helpful in illuminating this point, which he examines in two articles, ‘Eine Einstellung zur Seele’ and ‘Who Is My Neighbour?’ In the former, he cites the following paragraphs from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: ‘I believe that he is suffering’—Do I also believe that he isn’t an automaton? It would go against the grain to use the word in both connexions. (Or is it like this: I believe that he is suffering, but am certain that he is not an automaton? Nonsense!) Suppose I say of a friend: ‘He isn’t an automaton.’ What information is conveyed by this, and to whom would it be informative? To a human being who meets him in ordinary circumstances? What information could it give him? (At the very most that this man always behaves like a human being, and not occasionally like a machine.) ‘I believe that he is not an automaton’, just like that, so far makes no sense. My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul [eine Einstellung zur Seele]. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul (Wittgenstein, 1973, p. 178).
What Wittgenstein wants to emphasize in these passages is the groundlessness of our belief that someone is a human being. There is no prior check necessary in order to establish this point. The certainty with which one knows that another is a human being is not a certainty that rests upon some justification, or, as Winch puts it, ‘doubt and certainty—at least as modifications of belief—don’t come into the matter’. Our Einstellung is our general concept of a human being, but it is not ‘a generalization of my particular beliefs about how he feels and thinks at different times during his life’, since if it were a generalization of particular beliefs, ‘it looks as though it would have to be very much more liable to doubt (because so much more ambitious)’. Winch writes, ‘his not being an automaton is not a generalization from his states of consciousness at particular times, so much as a condition of his having (or not having) any states of consciousness at particular times’. And, as Winch notes further, this Einstellung is an attitude I exhibit towards strangers passing on the street, not merely towards people whom I know well, that is, of whom I have had the opportunity to witness numerous particular states of consciousness. This Einstellung may be revealed in both reflective and unreflective reactions towards others. As Winch remarks, ‘our unreflective reactions are part of the primitive material out In Trying to Make Sense, pp. 140–53 and 154–66, respectively.
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of which our concept of a human person is formed and which makes such more sophisticated reflections possible’ (Winch, 1987, pp. 145–7). Winch notes that Wittgenstein’s use of the phrase eine Einstellung zur Seele is meant to point to the ‘instinctive character’ of these primitive reactions. He writes, ‘The important fact that underlies this idea is that my reaction to a particular human being on a specific occasion is typical of my reaction to any human being. It has a certain generality about it and the important question is where we are to locate this generality and how we are to characterize it.’ In order to understand that generality Winch offers the example of witnessing a man being given ‘terrible news.’ ‘I say “poor man! How he will suffer” and you ask, “What makes you think he will suffer?”’ Winch notes the oddness of the question and suggests that his first reaction would be that you had not understood what was happening to the man. ‘Of course, if the question is being taken in a philosophical way,’ he writes, ‘that will not be the point. It will be an invitation to reflect that my supposition that this man will suffer is rooted in my general experience of human life. The outcome of that general experience is that I should expect any man to suffer in such circumstances.’ He continues, The real generality in the present instance is that my reaction to the man I see receiving bad news is a typical, characteristic, constantly repeated feature of human life in which I share. I may of course observe that life and theorize about it, but I am also part of it and that relation of participation in a life with other human beings … itself introduces a generality into my particular reaction to a man on a specific occasion. I said a moment ago that I should expect any man to suffer in such circumstances. But that should not be construed as: ‘I believe that any man would suffer in such circumstances and I believe therefore this man will suffer in these circumstances.’ The correct expression of my belief is simply ‘I believe that this man will suffer in these circumstances’; and the belief thus expressed is one which I should hold concerning any other man in like circumstances; moreover so would anyone else who understood the situation (Winch, 1987, pp. 151–2).
Winch concludes his article by noting that the belief that the man will suffer is not based upon—and does not require—any justification apart from the circumstances (namely, that a loved one has died). In such a situation, it is natural and reasonable for people to expect the man will suffer. Furthermore It is in the context of a shared life involving such a consensus that our Einstellung towards each other can be understood in the way they are. That does not justify them, but it does provide the conditions under which they can be called intelligible. One feature of that intelligibility is our ability to apply certain concepts in the expression of our attitudes. ‘Poor man! How he will suffer.’ Those of course are accents of pity. It is in the context of relationships involving such expressions (amongst numberless others of course) that we understand
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what suffering is. That does not mean that is it impossible for anyone to know that someone else is suffering without pitying him; but it does mean that one cannot (unless a very special context is supplied) ask why the fact that someone is suffering should be a reason for pitying him (Winch, 1987, p. 153).
Along with pity, our attitude towards a soul makes the response of trust intelligible. Trust, perhaps, is a preeminent facet of Eine Einstellung zur Seele, since it seems indisputable, for example, that we do not and cannot trust animals in the same manner that we trust human beings. At the very least, animals cannot be held morally responsible for a failure of trust. However, in the last sentence cited above, Winch expresses the belief that a moral response (in this case, pity) is more basic than a response of indifference or malice. Can we say the same of trust—that trust is more basic than distrust? The idea is suggested by Hertzberg when he writes, ‘Trust … is implicit in many of the primary reactions of one human being to another. It is the loss of this way of reacting that has to be made intelligible, by invoking, say, the effects of experience or instruction’ (Hertzberg, p. 317). The idea is also echoed in Olli Lagerspetz’s article, ‘Legitimacy and Trust’. Here Lagerspetz writes, ‘Certain social institutions and relationships between people are internally connected with a basic trust and with truthfulness.’ Moreover, ‘It takes a special context to make a breach of trust possible. It presupposes a life in which trust exists, not merely as a set of beliefs about someone’s future conduct, but as an attitude’ (Lagerspetz, 1992, p. 5). Winch elaborates on the idea of the fundamental nature of moral responses in his article, ‘Who Is My Neighbour?’ Discussing the parable of the Good Samaritan, Winch tries to tie the concept of an attitude towards a soul to the Samaritan’s response to the man who fell among thieves. He emphasizes the unreflective character of that response, writing: Nothing intervenes between the Samaritan’s taking in the situation and his compassionate reaction; nor can we ignore the contrast in this respect with the priest and the Levite, especially the latter, who went over and looked at him in a calculating way before passing by on the other side. The contrast is all the more striking, of course, given that the encounter is between a Samaritan and a Jew (as it were a Palestinian Arab and an Israeli): that is, just the sort of situation in which one might expect questions and hesitations (Winch, 1987, p. 156).
Winch makes note of the fact that the lawyer’s question to Jesus, the question that prompts Jesus to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, began as a question of what the lawyer should do to gain eternal life. Jesus turns the question around, asking the lawyer which of the men—the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan—was a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves. Winch understands Jesus’ response as elucidating the point that relations among human beings are ‘reciprocal’ In Trying to Make Sense, pp. 154–66.
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relations. ‘Thus, recognizing another as fellow human being is in a certain way inseparable from behaving towards him as a fellow human being.’ He likens Jesus’ question to the Socratic Method of questioning, in which the hearer ‘has within him or herself the resources for answering the question … If the lawyer has needed to be told the answer to Jesus’ last question he would have been in no position to understand it.’ Winch writes, ‘The Samaritan responds to what he sees as a necessity generated by the presence of the injured man … “but I can’t just leave him here to die”.’ He is interested in the type of moral necessity the unfortunate man generates for the Samaritan. In fact, Winch goes as far as saying, ‘the lawyer—and also those of us who feel that his answer to Jesus’ final question is the only possible one—are making a response analogous to that of the Samaritan himself’. Winch wants to argue against philosophers such as G. E. M. Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre, who believe that ‘morality is somehow based on and perhaps derivable from (an independently graspable) human nature’. It is the parenthetical comment with which Winch takes issue. Anscombe believes that the Judeo-Christian ‘law conception’ of ethics provided the intelligibility of biblical commands such as the command to love one’s neighbor, but that ‘law conception’ no longer functions in our society, leaving biblical commandments largely unintelligible. But Winch argues that ‘It clearly does not follow from the alleged disappearance of circumstances which once gave a certain intelligibility to a linguistic usage that such a usage now has no intelligibility. The most we can conclude,’ he continues, ‘is that it now has to be understood rather differently.’ The lesson the parable imparts, Winch believes, does not require a conception of divine law. The ‘parable did not appeal to the conception: it challenged it. Or at least it commented on the conception in a way which presupposed that the moral modality to which the Samaritan responded would have a force for the parable’s hearers independently of their commitment to any particular theological belief.’ The meaning of the parable, then, is comprehensible by a human being, even one who lacks the concept of a divine lawgiver: The suggestion here … is that we do not first have a conception of God on the basis of which we form our conception of the Commandment to love our neighbour. On the contrary the conceptual development goes the other way. The responses to moral modalities that we share with the Samaritan (however much they are modified or stifled by circumstance) are amongst the seeds from which, in some people, grows the conception of divinity and its laws. Of course, our understanding need not develop in this direction at all; and if it does not, I do not see why this should stand in the way of someone’s grasping the force of such a modal expression in its original context (Winch, 1987, pp. 157–61).
Again, Winch emphasizes the naturalness of our reactions to each other, often spontaneous and unlearned, referring back to Wittgenstein’s words in Philosophical Investigations. He notes the importance of the fact that our reactions to other human beings are not like our reactions to anything else, since our reactions are
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driven by our understanding of the type of creatures that we, and others, are. This understanding is an understanding of what it is to be a human being. Winch writes that if he sees someone strike his thumb with a hammer, ‘I will wince, cry out and clutch my own thumb. I have not learned to do this; neither do I do it as a result of reflection on the pain my companion is in. It is itself an expression of my recognition of the pain he is in’ (Winch, 1987, p. 163). Winch’s next move is to characterize the Samaritan’s response as a part of our general response to human beings by contrasting that response with some cases of the monstrous: Houyhnhnms and Yahoos of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’, and the horrors of Nazi Germany. Winch writes, ‘I feel like saying that it is important to recognize that here there is something which in a certain sense is not to be “understood”, if we are to retain our sense of what human life is.’ He remarks, In all these cases, the situation is not that I first recognize my common humanity with others and that this recognition then provides the intellectual justification for my response to certain modalities in dealing with them. On the contrary, it is a recognition which is itself a function of those responses … It is the point Wittgenstein is succinctly making in his remark: ‘My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul’ (Winch, 1987, p. 165).
We could say of the Samaritan, that his response to the man who fell among thieves is an expression of his trust—a trust that is natural, spontaneous, and unlearned. This trust is at once a trust in the injured man or perhaps in humanity generally, but it is also, at the same time, an expression of the moral necessity of aiding the injured man. We might say an expression of trust in that moral necessity; and that trust is somehow identical with the love of one’s neighbor. And if the responses of the priest and the Levite, responses expressing suspicion, were ‘typical, characteristic and constantly repeated’ responses to injured persons that itself would express a very different sense of what human life is, one which, in comparison to our understanding of the human, seems to lack something important. Winch appeals to Wittgenstein’s game analogy to indicate the enormous difference between the response of the Samaritan and those of the priest and the Levite: Analogously, we might say, the priest and the Levite saw something different from what the Samaritan saw when they came upon the injured man in the roadway. We might say: they did not see a neighbour in him. Perhaps it would sound odd to say that they did not recognize him as a fellow human being. Of course, in many contexts we would not say this. But in some contexts we do speak like this. Consider the attitudes of Europeans and white Americans to slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was sometimes said ‘Eine Einstellung zur Seele’, p. 152.
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of them—indeed, they sometimes said of themselves—that they did not regard slaves as human. To say that is not to make a point about their competence at biological classification, though no doubt such matters were confusedly mixed up with what was really at issue, namely the nature of their moral sensibility. My central point is that in questions concerning our understanding of each other our moral sensibility is indeed an aspect of our sensibility, of the way we see things, of what we make of the world we are living in (Winch, 1987, p. 15).
Trust and suspicion, it seems, are clearly responses to other human beings— made intelligible because one first has an attitude towards a soul. But what about indifference? We might want to say that while the Samaritan’s expression of trust is a natural response to a fellow human being, the indifference expressed in the action of the priest and the Levite cry out for explanation, suggesting as they do a very different sensibility on the part of the two who walked away. D. Z. Phillips disagrees with Winch’s belief that sympathetic responses to other human beings are paradigmatic, and addresses the issue in his paper, ‘My Neighbour and my Neighbours’. Phillips begins his article by stating that, in normal circumstances, we do not, and we do not expect others to, wonder if the creatures surrounding us are in fact human beings. ‘We do not question the fact that we live in a human neighbourhood … It was the obviousness of all this that Wittgenstein tried to capture in his remark’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 230). But the obviousness of that remark belies the complexity of what Wittgenstein was trying to get at, and, as Phillips notes, part of the problem has its source in our use of the word ‘attitude’. The sense in which Wittgenstein was trying to elucidate in his phrase ‘an attitude towards a soul’ is a more general attitude than a belief that we might hold about someone in specific circumstances. Even so, as Phillips notes, ‘what Wittgenstein is saying is that it is not a more general form of belief: he is not of the opinion that the other has a soul’. These unreflective, primitive reactions are prior to any beliefs we might have about someone, and in fact, as already noted by Winch, they make possible less-primitive reactions such as belief. I can believe that someone is in pain, or is suffering, only because I first have an attitude towards her that is an attitude towards a soul. I cannot have these beliefs without this attitude (I cannot have the same beliefs about trees and rocks). Phillips agrees with Winch to the extent that Winch characterizes the Einstellung as ‘involv[ing] a general consensus, one that we can take for granted’, but he argues that Winch errs in his contention that the Einstellung has moral significance, more specifically, that ‘the very possibility of the concept of a human being is formed’ in moral ‘responses and expectations’. He cites Winch’s claim that his ‘central point is that in questions concerning our understanding of each other, our moral sensibility is indeed an aspect of our sensibility, of the way we see things, or what we make of the world we are living in’. Phillips responds that Winch’s characterization of ‘our moral sensibility’ as ‘an aspect of our sensibility’ suggests that our moral reactions are a part of our In Interventions in Ethics, pp. 229–50.
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general attitude towards others, and that this further suggests that those moral responses are, therefore, guaranteed. He writes, Winch wants to say that certain moral reactions are primitive reactions, carrying with them equally primitive expectations. But the examples he provides are mixed and cannot be treated in the same way. On the one hand, there are examples concerning expectations with regard to human beings which we can take for granted. If I am told that someone has lost someone he loves, I know he will suffer. If I see someone hit himself with a hammer, I know he will feel pain. But if we put alongside these examples, as Winch does, the pity we may well feel in such circumstances, there is an obvious difference: it cannot be taken for granted. Once we remind ourselves of this obvious fact, we are faced with the question of whether such pity can be called ‘an attitude towards a soul’ in Wittgenstein’s sense of that expression (Phillips, 1992, pp. 233–4).
To combat Winch’s misleading use of examples, Phillips supplies several others, which ‘seem equally primitive’ and equally human. These include examples from Jonathan Swift as well as a remark by Wittgenstein: Dear honest Ned is in the Gout Lies rackt with Pain, and you without: How patiently you hear him groan! How glad the case is not your own! (Swift, as cited in Phillips, 1992, p. 235) Nobody likes being confronted by a wounded spaniel. Remember that. It is much easier patiently—and tolerantly—to avoid the person you have injured than to approach him as a friend. You need courage for that (Wittgenstein, as cited in Phillips, 1992, p. 234).
If the reactions noted above are equally as primitive as reactions of pity and sympathy, Phillips suggests, we cannot give either type of reaction the priority implicated in the Einstellung. In addition, a problem arises that is similar to Phillips’s criticism of Hertzberg’s account of trust: if we still want to ask what is it that makes up one’s attitude toward other human beings, we will only mire ourselves deeper into confusion if we try to assign the attitude some substantive content by which we can distinguish it from other attitudes. The attitude towards a soul is a belief or hypothesis about the other. Phillips writes, ‘That’s a human being’ is related to the diverse primitive responses we have noted in a way akin to that in which ‘Physical objects exist’ is related to our primitive reactions in physical surroundings. We do not sit on chairs, sit at tables, climb stairs … because we first believe in the existence of physical objects. Rather our conviction, our certainty, that physical objects exist has its sense in this context.
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They are the contextual surroundings which hold the conviction fast (Phillips, 1992, p. 239).
Phillips believes that Winch would agree with his conclusions; however, the questions which Phillips is interested in exploring are ‘how much light is thrown on the distinctive reaction by invoking our certainty that the others are human beings’, and whether the Samaritan’s reaction to the man on the side of the road is this kind of primitive reaction. Is the trust that the Samaritan exhibits primitive in the same sense that Eine Einstellung zur Seele is primitive? The suspicious attitudes demonstrated by the priest and the Levite also express an attitude towards a soul, no less than the Samaritan’s reaction of trust. One cannot equate a basic attitude of trust with the more general concept of Einstellung because responses of trust do not have priority over reactions of suspicion. In order to compare more closely the reaction of the Samaritan and Wittgenstein’s Einstellung, Phillips asks his readers to imagine what ‘the absence of either involves’. In the absence of an attitude towards a soul, that is, in the absence of our general concept of the human, the result is madness: ‘To imagine a situation in which I could no longer respond to the creatures around me as human beings would be to imagine a radical break-up of the familiar expectations we have noted’; however, this is not the case if the Samaritan’s response is absent. As Phillips notes, we do not usually respond in the way that the Samaritan did; the Samaritan’s response was exceptional. But we, like the priest and the Levite, do not fail to see that the man in the road is a human being. Our unsympathetic reaction is a reaction to a human being. ‘Seeing the man as a neighbor’ and ‘failing to see him as a neighbor’ are equally a part of an attitude towards a soul. Phillips writes, ‘So far from threatening our attitude to other human beings, these unsympathetic reactions to others are all-too-frequent expressions of it’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 240). Phillips sees the impulse to equate Einstellung with certain moral responses as stemming from our practice of expressing moral criticism with words like ‘inhuman’ and ‘failing to see the humanity’ in someone. Regarding Winch’s comments on slavery, he writes, ‘The response Winch is discussing is a moral response of a certain kind. Within that response, other responses will be seen as modifications of the respect due to human beings.’ In other words, people who denounce slavery will describe slaveholders as failing to see the humanity of their slaves. However, as Phillips notes, slavery ‘is directed against other human beings. Such cases need to be distinguished from Gulliver’s experiences which call into question the very possibility of seeing a common humanity in the creatures by which he is confronted’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 241). Phillips notes further that there is no alternative attitude to Wittgenstein’s Einstellung zur Seele. This is clearly not the case with the Samaritan’s response. The parable itself presents us with the alternative responses of the priest and the Levite, whose reactions to the man who fell among thieves are as plausible, if not more so since they are more common, as the Samaritan’s. Winch, Phillips tells us, did not intend to say that the Samaritan’s reaction can be taken for granted, but
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he is, rather, impressed by the unreflective character of the Samaritan’s response. The tendency to think that Winch is trying to say that the Samaritan’s response can be assumed is due to the (unrecognized in Winch’s paper) ‘important distinction between stressing the immediately unreflective character of a response and claiming that the response can be taken for granted’. While our responses to other human beings are unreflective and immediate, they cannot help us to understand what it is that is so impressive about the Samaritan’s response to the man who fell among thieves, since the reactions of the priest and the Levite are equally as unreflective and immediate. What marks the distinctiveness of the Samaritan’s response, therefore, is not its immediacy. Instead, Phillips notes, ‘What is impressive about the Samaritan’s response is that it is immediate and unreflective pity and compassion. To appreciate this we need not invoke Wittgenstein’s more general notion of an attitude towards a soul’ (Phillips, 1992, pp. 242–5). A response of trust or distrust, or of compassion or indifference, is only a possible response to someone because I have an attitude towards her that is an attitude towards a soul. Phillips takes issue with Winch’s comment that the lawyer finds the answer to his question within himself—that it is a matter of ‘common decency’. He writes, ‘An immediate and unreflective response to Jesus’ question does not mean that I am capable of an immediate and unreflective response to my neighbour in distress. So even with notions of common decency, it does not mean that the decency is common in the sense of being something that we all have the resources to fulfill.’ He remarks that the parable is a religious parable, meant to shock the lawyer, and us, into understanding our ‘neighbour’ in a new way—it is a ‘spiritual extension from more familiar acts of common decency’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 246). In fact, the parable’s power to shock us rests upon our acknowledgment of our common indecency, our willingness to label another as an enemy, and to use that label as a sanction for the behavior of the priest and the Levite. The parable is a story about a Samaritan and a Jew and this creates an important difference between it, on the one hand and, on the other hand, the example that Wittgenstein uses of a man in pain. The parable asks the listener to react not to an injured man but to an injured enemy. Winch attempts to preserve this aspect by placing the parable in a modern context by suggesting parenthetically that the actors involved could be ‘as it were a Palestinian Arab and an Israeli’. This makes the parable a story about a specific context, not the generic context of Wittgenstein’s man with a pain in his hand. The foregoing may suggest that an attitude of trust is not basic, that it cannot be relied upon, where trust is understood as manifested not only in reactions of sympathy, but also, for example, as Hertzberg writes, ‘being prepared to go along with what another intimates’. However, there is a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. Recall Wittgenstein’s words that ‘It is much easier … to avoid the person you have injured than to approach him as a friend. You need courage for that.’ Why is courage required? Because even if one does not have what it takes to respond sympathetically to a person she has injured, she does acknowledge the injury. Even an unsympathetic response involves acknowledgement of another’s suffering, and recognition of the ability to suffer is recognition of the human, just as
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distrusting someone acknowledges her humanity. It is another matter altogether if one is incapable of recognizing the injury she has inflicted upon another. Raimond Gaita argues in a similar fashion, challenging Phillips’s assessment of Winch’s work in his critical notice of Phillips’s Interventions in Ethics. Gaita insists that Phillips misses how much the Samaritan’s response tells us about an attitude towards a soul. He believes Phillips overstates the matter when he writes, ‘There is no way of showing that the sympathetic relations are the paradigmatic form of “recognizing a human being”.’ The actions of the priest and the Levite, Gaita believes, express indifference; however, even if those responses are considered ‘natural’, unlike the Samaritan’s response, ‘there are other ways of walking away’ which seem to require explanation. The example he provides is more generic than the parable of the Good Samaritan, and seems to fall into the more general class of examples that Wittgenstein uses. Gaita writes, Simone Weil says somewhere in her notebooks that if a person in the desert comes across someone dying of thirst, then he will share his water with him if he has enough in his canteen. She says that such behaviour is ‘automatic’. Certainly it requires no explanation, but we do require an explanation if, having enough water in his canteen, he simply walked past, ignoring the other person’s pleas. In such cases the need for explanation appears to arise for reasons which are more basic than would be implied by the claim that it emerges from a moral perspective (Gaita, pp. 615–16).
Perhaps then an attitude of trust is more basic than what is expressed in our moral behavior. Gaita argues that Phillips mischaracterizes certain responses as moral when they in fact are a fundamental part of our general concept of a human being. He remarks that Winch’s interest in ‘Who Is My Neighbour?’ is to find ‘an account of our knowledge and understanding of other human beings which will itself make it possible to see how such knowledge and understanding can of itself impose moral bounds on our will … one which makes recognition of such moral bounds on the will a criterion for the knowledge and understanding of the human beings that is in question.’ Gaita explores this possibility, hoping to show what connections Phillips misses in his criticism of Winch’s paper. While he agrees both that ‘there is no one substantive attitude which is the attitude to a soul’ and that Wittgenstein’s remarks on the matter are meant as a commentary on skepticism, Gaita does believe that Wittgenstein’s remarks have epistemic implications. He also agrees with Phillips’s point that ‘it is essential to the concept human being as it functions in such contexts that it does not select between human beings’, that is, I apply the concept to all human beings, but Gaita cautions, ‘Even so, not all selective uses are (as he seems to believe) essentially moral’ (Gaita, pp. 618–19). Gaita notes that Winch makes much of Wittgenstein’s example of a man with a pain in his hand: ‘if someone has a pain in his hand, then the hand does not say so (unless it writes it) and one does not comfort the hand, but the sufferer: one looks into his face. How am I filled with pity for this man? How does it come out what
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the object of my pity is?’ (Wittgenstein, 1973, p. 98). Gaita also comments on Winch’s example of seeing a man receive the news that a loved one has died. He states, ‘It would be equally strange to ask whether the man … is the kind of being who could reflect on his suffering, such that the reflection and the suffering could go deep. That seems obvious.’ Gaita continues, The reason I remark on it emerges if we notice what we assume when we take for granted that he is capable of such reflection, or when we take for granted that even if he is too shallow to reflect in any serious way on his sufferings, he might change and deepen. Indeed, the thought that he might be shallow makes sense only if we assume that he can appropriately be called upon to rise to something different, however unlikely it might actually be that he will. And often, if they are from a culture so different than ours that their responses bewilder us, then, even so, we can imagine that it could have been different, that they could have grown in our culture and been intelligible to us. Or rather, our being able to imagine that marks one kind of case whose importance I shall presently discuss. All this is taken for granted, and that fact determines one kind of answer to ‘How does it come out what the object of my pity is?’ And here, as in the examples discussed by Wittgenstein, the concept of a human being is essential to the characterisation of the object. The objects are different, however, and the reason has to do with the way the concept of a human being in this second case is selective between human beings (Gaita, p. 619).
Why does Gaita claim that the ‘objects are different’, and that the ‘second case is selective between human beings?’ He continues, I said that if we are radically bewildered by the behaviour of people from another culture in ways that have essentially to do with the fact that they are from an alien culture, then we can imagine them as having been brought up in our culture. I said that marks one kind of case. This is not an empirical point. It is, rather, a point about what underlies the kind of common understanding that is presupposed when we respond, as Winch (rightly) expects, to his example. It marks the common understanding within which we can take those responses for granted (Gaita, pp. 619–20).
Part of our common understanding of human beings includes the ability to enter into relationships of trust with them, to let down and be let down by a breach of trust, and to cause others suffering by disappointing their trust. To get at what is included in a ‘common understanding’, Gaita addresses the issue of race-based slavery and whether or not slave owners saw their slaves as human beings. He comments that in most accounts, ‘if a racist were sincerely (if self-deceivingly) mistaken about what, for example, are the objective characteristics of Blacks or Asians, and if that error connected with how (physically) they appear to him, then their appearances constitute only a psychological obstacle to his objective
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appreciation of how things really are’. However, Gaita believes such accounts are mistaken. The racist does not simply make an error. Gaita writes, We cannot, I think, so radically divorce our conception of an inner life from the forms of its expression. The Black and White Minstrel face was a caricature which revealed how many white Americans saw Negro faces. Those faces, as reflected in the caricature, did not appear to white racists as only accidentally incapable of expressions of depth and suffering, as would the face of a white person who was terribly disfigured in an accident. The racist’s thought is that is how they look, and the fact that they look like that is fundamental to what makes them ‘them’ and to what makes it inconceivable to a racist that they should be treated as ‘one of us’. When thinking of the way Wittgenstein speaks of an attitude to a soul we may think that it teaches us that we cannot doubt that there are other human beings, with thoughts and feelings essentially like ours. We can see why that would need serious qualification (Gaita, p. 620).
The slave owner who does not see humanity in his slaves, therefore, would be incapable of entering into trust relationships with his slaves and of being let down by them in a way that would make him feel moral indignation. He also would not understand his slaves to be capable of feeling moral indignation or disappointment at a breach of trust. Gaita focuses on Wittgenstein’s use of the term ‘soul’. He wants to show that when slave owners did not see their slaves as human beings, they also did not see them as having souls; hence they did not see slaves as capable of suffering in deep ways, as human beings are able to suffer. Gaita mentions Stanley Cavell’s concept of ‘soul blindness’, approving of the word ‘soul’ in Cavell’s work, since ‘soul’ ‘is conceptually tied, in its non-speculative and nonmetaphysical sense, to suffering and to the ways it may go deep’; ways, he writes, ‘which I have already noted, are possible because we are able to reflect upon our suffering and take attitudes to it because of that reflection’. Gaita suggests that if a slave owner could imagine his slave as capable of deep suffering—as ‘Dostoievski prayed that he should be worthy of his sufferings’—he would release his slaves. ‘Such a prayer reveals how suffering may go deep—what is involved here in speaking of depth—and therefore, if he could attribute it to his slaves, he would be threatened by the realisation of what he has made them suffer’ (Gaita, pp. 620–21). Gaita understands our attitude to a soul as including, fundamentally, the notion of the possibility of suffering along with the individuality of one’s experience and what one makes of that experience. ‘We sometimes say that each person is a unique perspective on the world. When we speak of treating human beings as though they were things, when our attitude to them is not, in the sense I am now invoking, an attitude towards a soul, then the kind of individuality expressed in the thought that they are a unique perspective on the world has become invisible to us.’ And while he does not believe, with Simone Weil, that seeing others as unique perspectives on the world is a guarantee of acting justly towards them, he writes
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that Weil ‘is right to connect our sense of justice with our sense that others are a unique perspective on the world, and the connection is mediated by the realisation that the acknowledgement of the distinctive individuality of human beings shows itself in the distinctive way they are a limit to our will’. Gaita writes that the idea of human beings as unique perspectives on the world implies a particular understanding of experience and its place in ethical understanding, experience, for example, as it connects with wisdom. It is importantly connected with the fact that the most ethically salient of our experiences present to us under concepts which make a distinction between the real and the sham in ways that require lucidity of us under pain of superficiality. This, together with the qualities of mind that are necessary to achieve such lucidity, is what gives content to this way of speaking of depth and shallowness (Gaita, p. 621).
Gaita employs Winch’s term ‘limiting notions’, such as the fact that ‘we are mortal, that we are vulnerable to suffering’. These limiting notions ‘determine the “ethical space” within which the possibilities of good and evil in human life can be exercised’. Furthermore, our understanding of the human arises from these limiting notions, as they establish our awareness of being among a common kind of creature ‘whose character is marked by the fellowship whose character and tone we register when we speak of the human condition as a common fate’. These ‘defining facts of life’ establish a commonality that is more than our belonging to the same species, but nonetheless make possible our understanding of each other. ‘None of this is underwritten by the facts of human nature; nothing metaphysical or biological dictates that it must be so’ (Gaita, pp. 621–2). This fellowship includes the possibility of trust relationships, as well as the suffering caused by the breach of those relationships. Those relationships can be primitive; that is, they can be formative of our values and our sense of reason, regardless of whether they are parent—child relationships, friendships, or something else. Gaita relates the foregoing to Phillips’s article by first noting that Phillips is correct to differentiate between Wittgenstein’s remarks and Winch’s use of them: ‘The differences bring with them different senses of “soul” … The slave owner may say that his slaves do not have souls, but that is not a form of scepticism of other minds.’ However, Gaita believes that there is also much to learn from the similarities. While he acknowledges some difficulties with the example of race-based slavery, he employs it because it demonstrates ‘how one may extend Wittgenstein’s remarks about an attitude to a soul to examples where we naturally say that the humanity of some people is not fully acknowledged’. He continues, The examples are often of people who are treated unjustly, sometimes to a horrific extent, but the way the concept ‘human being’ works in those examples is not essentially morally driven. The slave owner cannot find it intelligible that his slaves should share with him and with those whom we would not dream of enslaving, however much he may hate or even despise them, a common
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humanity whose character is conditioned by the kinds of responses those who share in it find it intelligible that each should take to be the defining facts of the human condition. That is why it is literally unintelligible to him that slavery should constitute the injustice we know it to be, and why it rests upon his failure fully to acknowledge his common humanity with his slaves. Winch remarks that ‘treating a person justly involves treating with seriousness his own conception of himself, his own commitments and cares, his own understanding of his situation and of what the situation demands of him’ … That implies that to take seriously a person’s conception of his or her own commitments and cares, is to be able to find it intelligible that they should explore those commitments and cares with an increasingly deepened understanding. It is to find it intelligible that they could have rich or impoverished inner lives. Failing that, we can have, at best, only an attenuated sense of what it is seriously to wrong them (Gaita, pp. 622–3).
For the slave owner, then, slavery is not a moral issue because, from his perspective, slaves simply are not human. His reaction is not ‘morally driven’ because it is not an immoral reaction to the suffering of another—he does not recoil from the plight of his slaves. Instead, the issue for him is not a moral issue to begin with. Questions of morality do not arise for him. But from our perspective (twenty-first-century readers who acknowledge the humanity of slaves), there is a moral issue here and the slave owner is morally culpable. To cite Phillips again, ‘Within that response, other responses will be seen as modifications of the respect due to human beings.’ However, Phillips’s comment that slavery ‘is directed against other human beings’ must be qualified: ‘Such cases need to be distinguished from Gulliver’s experiences which call into question the very possibility of seeing a common humanity in the creatures by which he is confronted’ (Phillips, 1992, p. 241). The statement that slavery is directed towards other human beings is only true from a perspective and understanding that acknowledges the humanity of slaves. Our understanding allows for a gulf between the cases encountered by Jonathan Swift’s character and the people who were enslaved in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America, but there is no guarantee that slave owners need experience the same gulf. For them, the possibility of seeing humanity in the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms may prove no more or less difficult than seeing that humanity in the faces of their slaves. We who live in twenty-first-century Europe and America have a different concept of the human than slave owners did, and our application of ‘soul’ is thus wider than that of slave owners. It is possible that some people might consider Yahoos and Houyhnhnms as human. Their application of ‘soul’ would be wider still, and they could charge us with soul blindness. It seems, therefore, that Eine Einstellung zur Seele does admit of alternatives, not so much, perhaps, because of alternative understandings of ‘soul’, but because of alternative applications of the term. Gaita gives examples of cases in which ‘someone might be placed outside that common understanding’ which he is attempting to elucidate. One example is Socrates’ belief that a good man cannot be harmed. He writes, ‘Aristotle was, I think, saying that Socrates’ insensibility (as Aristotle saw it) to the way affliction might,
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and at a certain extreme must, destroy a life, placed him outside the framework of a common understanding whose common-ness was, in crucial part, constituted by the sympathetic acknowledgment of our vulnerability.’ He continues, ‘To wonder, flatly, whether death is an evil is not to develop to an extreme point the thought that death need not always be evil. It is to disengage from the context which gives the latter thought and the ethical perspectives that inform it, their character. That context is the soil in which the critical concepts with which we appraise such thoughts are rooted.’ That context contains within it the differences that Phillips wants to draw attention to, and the life which we share is what ‘enables those differences to speak to us, to have the power to move us, to reveal to us the depth where we had not seen it before, and sense where we had not thought it possible’. Without that common understanding, those differences are ‘mute’. Gaita writes, ‘To be alive to the differences and distances, to the similarities and proximities that make up our sense of the human is, quite literally, to be able to do justice to them, to hear in them the distinctive voice of a unique perspective on the world’ (Gaita, pp. 623–5). Gaita’s argument is persuasive, for there seems to be much that is taken for granted in our general attitude towards others, including the idea that other human beings can suffer, and that suffering can go deep; but this ‘common understanding’ is not, as he notes, a guarantee of moral behavior. Iago, unlike southern slavers, is quite aware of Othello’s ability to suffer and suffer deeply, and in fact, it is Iago’s goal to make the general just that miserable. That is why Iago’s cruelty is so striking. I just said ‘unlike southern slavers’, because while the slave owner does not see the full humanity of his slaves, Iago’s cruelty does acknowledge Othello’s humanity. Gaita also writes that the concept of the human that sees slavery as a horror is our sense of the human. It is true, I believe, that our sense of the human is informed by the issue of racial slavery and moral responses to that slavery, where ‘our’ means people living in the twenty-first century. But the issue was certainly in doubt in the United States during the nineteenth century. However, it is also true, as Gaita mentions, that slave owners were not skeptical of other minds. Given Gaita’s arguments, I believe Gaita persuasively elucidates what is included in the concept ‘soul’; but how that concept is applied, and when and to whom it is applied remains at issue. That raises the question of just how common our ‘common understanding’ is. It seems unquestionable that we often trust without reflection and that our trust is often primitive, that is, instinctive and spontaneous, unreflective and unlearned. We participate in a life with other human beings, a life that includes relationships which range from deep to shallow, and our general attitude towards a soul essentially includes the possibility of entering into such relationships. The distinction between deep and shallow relationships, and between ‘real’ and ‘sham’ friendships, for example, relies upon our ability to trust, and upon the gradations between trust and distrust, between placing our trust in another and merely relying on her.
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References Colette, ‘The Other Wife’ (1986), in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), The World of the Short Story: a 20th Century Collection, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, pp. 19–21. Gaita, Raimond (1994), ‘Critical Notice of Interventions in Ethics by D. Z. Phillips’, Philosophical Investigations 17: 613–28. Hertzberg, Lars (1988), ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Inquiry 31: 307–22. Lagerspetz, Olli (1992), ‘Legitimacy and Trust’, Philosophical Investigations 15: 1–21. _____ (1997), ‘The Notion of Trust in Philosophical Psychology’, in Lilli Alanen, Sara Heināmaa and Thomas Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Phillips, D. Z. (1992), Interventions in Ethics, State University of New York Press, Albany. _____ (2002), ‘On Trusting Intellectuals on Trust’, Philosophical Investigations 25: 33–53. Sarot, Marcel (1996), ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’, Sophia 35: 101–15. Steinbeck, John (1937), Of Mice and Men, Penguin, New York. Winch, Peter (1972), Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. _____ (1987), Trying to Make Sense, Basil Blackwell, Oxford. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1973), Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed., trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Macmillan, New York. _____ (1984), Culture and Value, trans. Peter Winch, Blackwell, Oxford. _____ (1991), On Certainty, trans. and ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and George Henrik von Wright, Harper, New York.
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Only very confused and inexperienced people think they can judge another person on the basis of knowledge.—Kierkegaard, Works of Love
In his article, ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Lars Hertzberg presents a concept of trust that is prior to judgment, in which another ‘embodies goodness and reason’ for the truster. He likens this type of trust to religious trust, in which God is the sole source of goodness and reason for the believer. Hertzberg’s type of trust is rare since for most of us, no one, single other wholly embodies goodness and reason; rather, our concepts of goodness and reason are influenced and informed by a myriad of sources: parents, teachers, friends, books, films, and so on. Notably, Hertzberg only ascribes such radical trust (when it is trust in another person, as opposed to trust in God) to children. Although Hertzberg does mention that this trust is lost as a normal part of growing up, he does not seem to notice his own suggestion that if trust in another is childish, then so too is religious trust by the association he has drawn. However, I do not believe that Hertzberg wants to make that statement. Annette Baier, in contrast, has no difficulty describing religious trust as infantile; what is more, she believes religious trust to have limited value, either practically or philosophically. In ‘Trust and Antitrust’, she writes, ‘The persistent human adult tendency to profess trust in a creator-God can also be seen as an infantile residue of this crucial innate readiness of infants to initially impute goodwill to the powerful persons on whom they depend. So we should perhaps welcome, or at least tolerate, religious trust, if we value any form of trust.’ Nonetheless, an examination of religious faith, she believes, will not aid our understanding of trust in other persons. This is because the relationship between God and human being, with respect to power, is not a mutual one. She writes, For even the child soon learns that the parent is not, like God, invulnerable, nor even, like some versions of God, subject to offense or insult but not injury. Infant trust, although extreme in the discrepancy of power between the truster and the trusted, is to some extent a matter of mutual trust and mutual if unequal vulnerability. The parents’ enormous power to harm the child and disappoint the child’s trust is the power of ones also vulnerable to the child’s at first insignificant but ever-increasing power, including power as one trusted by the parent. So not very much can be milked from the theological literature on the virtues of trust, faith, and hope in God and returned to the human context, even to the case of infant and parent (Baier, p. 242).
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Not only are theological explorations of religious trust of no aid to the philosopher; but religious faith, Baier believes, is also harmful to healthy trust, since, by her estimate, religious trust fosters either infantile, irrational trust, or, as a reaction against such infantilism, adolescent suspicion—the type of suspicion which she believes is embodied in most philosophical accounts of trust (e.g., the contract model). She continues, Indeed we might cite the theological contamination of the concept of trust as part of the explanation for the general avoidance of the topic in modern moral philosophy. If trust is seen as a variant of the suspect virtue of faith in the competence of the powers that be, then readiness to trust will be seen not just as a virtue of the weak but itself as a moral weakness, better replaced by vigilance and self-assertion, by self-reliance or by cautious, minimal, and carefully monitored trust. The psychology of adolescents, not infants, then gets glorified as the moral ideal. Such a reaction against a religious version of the ethics of trust is as healthy, understandable, and, it is hoped, as passing a phenomenon as is adolescent self-assertive individualism in the life of the normal person (Baier, p. 242).
As I sought to demonstrate in a previous chapter, Baier herself harbors much suspicion within her own concept of trust. She is not only unable to fully eradicate instrumentalism from her own model; she also wants to preserve the capacity of judgment for the truster, as she is unwilling to let the trusted wholly embody goodness and reason for the truster because of the possibility of extensive injury to the truster. Such trust is infantile, not mature. I have already stated that what is problematic in the idea of trust as prior to judgment—Hertzberg’s concept—is the characterization that such trust could be placed in merely one other, so that only one individual is the source of reason and goodness for the truster. Where this is the case, Baier has much reason for concern, and, fortunately, such trust is rare beyond childhood; hence, she is right to insist that this type of trust is best lost in the process of maturation. However aside from this point, Baier’s focus in ‘Trust and Antitrust’ is the assessment of trust relationships where the power of truster and trusted to do each other harm is not mutual; it is this absorption in the issues of power and mutuality that lead her to be not only suspicious of Lars Hertzberg’s concept of trust, but also of religious trust generally and, hence, to focus on the issue of God’s invulnerability. I have already commented that such a view of religious trust is limited, if not wrong-headed. A faith inspired by fear of sanctions is not much of a faith at all, although it may be true that some believe in this way. In this chapter, I want to examine the question of whether religious trust is childish, and that question, it seems, is tied to the further question of whether religious trust is, like Hertzberg’s concept of trust discussed in the previous chapter, prior to judgment. I say ‘seems’ to be because I am not at all certain that this is the case, that ‘prior to judgment’ and ‘childish’ are equivocal. The
dictionary defines ‘childish’ as ‘immature’, ‘unquestioning’, and ‘optimistic’. I believe that in Baier’s usage, childish means something like ‘unquestioning’. Thus, Hertzberg’s ‘trust in’ another is dangerous because it is incapable of questioning. Again, healthy adult trust, for Baier, includes an element of suspicion, whether that is trust in another human being or trust in God. Baier seems to slide together such terms as ‘irrational’, ‘prior to judgment’, and ‘unquestioning’, as if anything that does not involve judgment is, therefore, irrational and childish. That we cannot equivocate these terms is borne out in Wittgenstein’s work cited in the previous chapter. Wittgenstein showed how much of our rationality depends upon what is not questioned. But what Wittgenstein is interested in is what we cannot rationally question. Equating the three terms, therefore, suggests something else. It suggests that one can question; more, that one should question, the good will or fallibility of those we trust. Perhaps then what Baier might suggest is that faith can be mature if, and only if, it is a questioning faith—one that comes to recognize God’s infallible trustworthiness only through trial. There are, as we shall see, difficulties with that position. In any case, my focus in this chapter is on religious trust, and to that end I want to examine Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, in which Kierkegaard expounds religious trust by contrasting it with a secular notion of trust. Before moving to Kierkegaard, however, I want to look more closely at the question of whether religious trust is infantile. Trusting God Marcel Sarot writes, in his article entitled ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’, that in trusting God, ‘if we could construe the relation between God and human beings as a contractual agreement, God would be our means of attaining eternal bliss’; however, he rejects such a construal of one’s relationship to God. But, he notes, ‘When we construe this relation as a relation of fellowship, the value human beings can receive from this relationship is the fellowship itself’ (Sarot, pp. 109–10). Sarot distinguishes between three situations of trust: trusting a person in a contractual agreement, trusting a person in a relationship of fellowship or love, and trusting God. When we trust a person in a contractual agreement, both parties to the agreement ‘accept certain rights and duties towards each other’ as more or less specified in the contract, and ‘with a view to the advantage they can gain for themselves’ through such an agreement. Because of this, either party can decide whether or not to honor the agreement; and if we so choose, we can blame the party who fails to abide by the contract, not the party whose trust is violated. Also, contracts tend to be highly specifiable—both the object and the target of trust can be specified; because of this, determining if a contract has been breached is straightforward. Sarot associates contractual trust with what Hertzberg defines as reliance, and what Hertzberg terms ‘trust in’ another, Sarot describes as trust ‘in a relation of mutual fellowship’. ‘The main difference [between these two forms of trust] is,’ he writes, ‘that one does not enter into a relation of fellowship because
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of the services the other can render, but because of the other him- or herself … the value is intrinsic rather than instrumental’ (Sarot, p. 106). Like contractual trust, trust in a relation of fellowship means that both parties can live up to, or fail to live up to, the trust. Unlike contractual trust, the parties need not, or perhaps cannot, specify the target of their trust or the reasons for one’s trust. This is because individuals transcend the characteristics they comprise. Because individuals in a relationship of fellowship cannot specify what it is they trust the other for, or why they trust the other, it is also not possible to specify what would count as a breach of trust. Trusting God has similarities with trusting another person in a relation of fellowship, but attempting to mold trust in God into a contract relationship would be a vulgar distortion of faith. When trust in God is construed as a relation of fellowship, again, it is impossible to specify the target of our trust. Sarot writes, On such a construal, it is impossible to specify the target of our trust; if it would be possible, we would not consider God as a person, but as an instantiation of values—probably as the perfect instantiation or original form of the highest values. So far the unspecifiability of the target of our trust is given with the personhood of God. But in the case of God, there is another, more fundamental reason why we cannot exhaustively specify the target of our trust in God. This reason has to do not so much with the personhood of God, but with the divinity of this person. The divinity of the supreme Person involves, according to the Christian religion, a transcendence in relation to human thought and experience that is much more radical than the way in which human persons transcend their own characteristics (Sarot, p. 110).
The radical transcendence of God means that any concept we apply to God will be different from the concepts we apply to others, including trustworthiness. Human concepts must be qualified when applied to God, ‘insofar as I am able to specify the target of my trust in God, this specification is subject to all the difficulties of religious language. When I say that I trust God to be just, the term “justice” does not mean univocally the same as in ordinary language.’ Sarot concludes, ‘the specification of the target of trust in God is necessarily less specifiable than the specification of the target of trust in another human being’ (Sarot, p. 111). Thus one’s relationship to God is necessarily open-ended. We cannot fully say what we trust God ‘for’ (and this ‘for’ should not be read instrumentally as ‘for something’); we wait upon God, trusting in God’s goodness. So far I do not think that Sarot’s analysis can do anything to alleviate Baier’s fears of religious trust. If our ordinary concepts do not apply to God, so that we can never fully specify what it is that we trust God for and what may in fact determine a breach of that trust, then are we not all the more justified in a position of suspicion? But as Sarot points out, the idea that God would breach one’s trust is untenable, since God always does the good.
There is not the slightest chance that God will ever act unjustly or commit evil; therefore God is utterly reliable and trustworthy. In the case of human persons, there is always a chance that they will not do as we trust them to do, not only because they are morally weak but also because they are vulnerable and even mortal. God is none of these things, and therefore God is utterly reliable and deserves unconditional trust (Sarot, pp. 111–12). Thus, there is a grammatical difference between trusting God and trusting another human being. Love abides; and God, as goodness itself, cannot fail you. Baier does not seem to be sensitive to this difference, but only to the difference between human and divine power. If God is utterly reliable, then, from the perspective of belief, it does not make sense to question one’s faith in God. Unquestioning faith in the utter reliability of God is sketched in the story of Abraham, the father of faith, and his willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. Sarot mentions this story of Abraham and Isaac, pointing out that Isaac’s trust in Abraham is no less remarkable than Abraham’s trust in God. Isaac was aware, he writes, that there was something odd about the situation as they journeyed to Moriah, since Isaac questioned his father about the whereabouts of the animal intended for the sacrifice. Sarot asks why Isaac’s trust in Abraham has not become the paradigm for how children should trust their parents. His answer is simply that ‘we do not want children to trust their parents in the way that Abraham trusted God or Isaac seems to have trusted Abraham’ (Sarot, p. 102). God will never fail us, but human beings will almost certainly do so. Such unquestioning trust in another human being, even one’s father, is not only hazardous, but downright irrational. So we might be inclined to conclude that religious trust in God is always perfectly rational, but that trust in another human being is never without the possibility of danger. God’s perfect infallibility is matched only by humanity’s perfect fallibility. But is the logical point that God is the source of all goodness and reason enough to save religious trust from the charge of infantilism? Or, is there danger lurking in the difficulties of religious language—of what we cannot say about God? Even if one answers that God’s perfect goodness is enough to justify faith, a difficulty remains: trusting God, for the Christian, is also expressed in the command to love one’s neighbor in all her fallibility; in fact, it is insisted that unless one love’s one’s neighbor, one does not express love of God. How can we be commanded to trust the fallible? The question of the rationality of religious trust is raised once again. Religious Trust and Rationality Like Baier, Hertzberg describes religious trust as puerile, but his description is more covert than Baier’s. Hertzberg’s descriptions of ‘trust in’ another are usually descriptions of the trust a child has in her elders. In ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Hertzberg likens the attitude of trust to trust in God, employing the story of Abraham and Isaac in order to demonstrate his point. Abraham’s willingness to fulfill God’s command and sacrifice his only son ‘showed his faith in the inscrutable
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goodness of God’—a faith which is remarkable in its completeness. Abraham, Hertzberg writes, ‘was prepared to embrace a way of acting that promised nothing but pain and grief for himself and his wife, and nothing desirable for anyone else. His obedience expressed the thought that God’s command was able by itself to constitute the action as good, although to his mind nothing else spoke in its favour.’ Thus, for Abraham, the absolute goodness of God determined the character of what he was commanded to do. In order to further elucidate his point, Hertzberg asks the reader to consider what it would look like if Isaac’s trust in Abraham were like his father’s trust in God. (Hertzberg does not suggest, as Sarot does, that something is amiss in Isaac’s would-be complete trust in Abraham.) Hertzberg states that Isaac did not suspect the use to which Abraham intended the knife. But, he insists, if Isaac had suspected his father’s intentions, going along with his father ‘would have required a deeper sort of trust; not just a belief that nothing he feared for could befall him from his father, or at his father’s side, but the conviction that whatever came to him through his father, even if it was precisely that which he feared, was still something to be accepted’. Hertzberg concludes, ‘His trust would then have been similar to his father’s trust in God.’ He explains, Isaac’s attitude towards his father, as I have imagined it, does not simply enter into his relation to the objects of his fear, but rather establishes a new relation to them: while he may still fear them, he has now at the same time come to see them as things to be accepted, maybe even sought for … in this sort of way an understanding of what it means to have reasons for acting or not acting in a certain way becomes possible (Hertzberg, pp. 309–10).
Thus, trust in God, like the trust Hertzberg imagines would have been necessary of Isaac had he known and still complied with his father’s plans, precedes any judgment regarding what God has commanded. In fact, trust in God informs any such judgment. But it is also important to notice that while Abraham is willing to obey God’s command, ‘He was prepared to embrace a way of acting that promised nothing but pain and grief for himself and his wife, and nothing desirable for anyone else’ (Hertzberg, p. 309). In addition, in order for Isaac’s trust in his father to be similar to Abraham’s trust in God, Isaac would need to accept his own death by his father’s hand, ‘enduring the fear or the pain’, and still fearing the knife in his father’s hand. Hertzberg is not suggesting that what once seemed awful is now a joyous event, that death is welcome; rather, the pain is accepted as pain. So while trust in God enables the event of Isaac’s death to be seen as something to be accepted, that trust does not inform Abraham’s judgment to the extent that he understands Isaac’s death as a painless event. The death of Isaac remains a terrible event for Abraham, and yet it is accepted. Hertzberg also is not suggesting that this trust is so dependent on the other for reason that the knife is no longer seen as a weapon. But this point does not save Abraham’s trust in God from the charge of irrationality, and in any case, it is difficult to accept Abraham’s actions as rational. But the case is no different with respect to Isaac’s (imagined) trust in his
father. For Isaac to have accepted his own death at the hands of his father would be extraordinary indeed; and had Isaac trusted Abraham in this way, we would see no difficulty in labeling Isaac’s trust as childish—dangerously irrational. With the exception of Hertzberg’s awkward example of his friend with knife in hand, he unfortunately does not give further examples of what adult trust might look like. Instead, he writes, ‘The distrustful person is someone who has been damaged by people. No matter that this, to an extent, is what happens normally in the process of growing up: the destruction of our trust in others is a tragedy of life, a fall from grace’ (Hertzberg, p. 320). To trust God—to exist in a state of grace—is, therefore, childish. Hertzberg’s motivation in ‘On the Attitude of Trust’ is to relate an attitude of trust in another to references in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. He thus relates religious trust to the primitive willingness of a child to believe what her elders tell her. D. Z. Phillips rejects this association of religious trust with the manner in which a child believes her elders. Phillips writes that Abraham’s faith in God cannot be compared to a child’s trust in her parents. ‘The command to sacrifice Isaac comes in the course of a long relationship to God, one in which he is asked to sacrifice a son given to him by a wife long past the time normally associated with the possibility of conceiving a child.’ Phillips adds that we should heed Kierkegaard’s warning, namely, that Abraham obeys God ‘with fear and trembling’. ‘Whatever account we give of the story, we should not forget the shudder in it … Such considerations do not fit easily with the unreflective responses of a child’ (Phillips, p. 46). Thus, Phillips stresses the reflective nature of Abraham’s trust in God. In Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Abraham is described as believing unquestioningly that God has commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, and at the same time, as believing God’s earlier promise that Isaac would father a nation. Kierkegaard does not depict Abraham as unreflective, but rather riding introspectively along the path to Moriah. Kierkegaard says that Abraham, during this journey, maintained his faith in God: All along he had faith, he believed that God would not demand Isaac of him, while he still was willing to offer him if that was demanded. He believed on the strength of the absurd, for there could be no question of human calculation, and it was indeed absurd that God who demanded this of him should in the next instant withdraw the demand. He climbed the mountain, even in that moment when the knife gleamed he believed—that God would not demand Isaac … Abraham had faith. His faith was not that he should be happy sometime in the hereafter, but that he should find blessed happiness here in this world. God could give him a new Isaac, bring the sacrificial offer back to life. He believed on the strength of the absurd, for all human calculation had long since been suspended (Kierkegaard, 1985, p. 65).
Kierkegaard’s depiction of Abraham is not of someone who is unthinking, but rather as someone who, from a human perspective, has lost his faculties since
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Abraham believes the absurd. Thus while Abraham may reflect upon his life and relationship with God and with Isaac, he is not rational. However, Abraham is not irrational because he does not think; he is irrational because of how he thinks. He thinks the absurd. Kierkegaard certainly would not categorize Abraham as childish. Abraham’s actions take him out of the realm of human rationality. Questions of Abraham’s sanity aside, D. Z. Phillips is unwilling to characterize religious trust as prior to reason. He writes, ‘I conclude that if we want to appreciate the possibilities of religious trust … we have to look elsewhere than to an alleged basic kind of trust on which even our reasons are said to depend’ (Phillips, 2002, p. 46). But this raises an objection about the nature of religious faith, namely, that God has given everyone a measure of faith—to children and the mentally deficient, as well as to mature, educated adults. I want to address this issue later on in this chapter. At present, I want to continue with Phillips’s assessment of Hertzberg, since Phillips does not find Hertzberg’s account of religious trust entirely without merit. Beyond Hertzberg’s use of the story of Abraham and Isaac, Phillips considers a grammatical difference between trust in another and the mere reliance which Hertzberg discusses, namely, the difference of which party is at fault when either relationship fails. On this point, Hertzberg writes, ‘if I was wrong in relying on someone, this was a failure in my judgment: it would have been better if I had been more astute. When someone’s trust is misplaced, however, it is always, I want to say, a misunderstanding to regard that as a shortcoming on his part. The responsibility rests with the person who failed the trust’ (Hertzberg, p. 319). Hertzberg notes that ‘The responsibility involved in being an object of trust is apparently what gets expressed in our speaking of a person as having (possessing) another’s trust, as well as of trust being misused.’ Hertzberg overstates matters here regarding trusting other persons (we only have to think of the person who assumes friendship too readily, with inappropriate demands and expectations); nevertheless, I want to focus at present on Hertzberg’s comments in relation to trust in God. Phillips writes, ‘Hertzberg suggests that this trust in another human being is like trusting God. We do not trust God as the result of assessing probabilities. Rather, we give God our trust, place it in him, give ourselves to the things of God.’ Thus, placing one’s trust in God is shown in one’s values, the way faith is shown in one’s life. To do justice, to love mercy, to strive for these things and place value in them, is to place one’s trust in God. Exactly how that trust will be borne out in one’s life depends upon the details of that life; and for the Christian, that will include loving one’s neighbor. Hertzberg misses the difference between trusting another person and trusting another person religiously, between loving God and loving God by loving one’s neighbor. Phillips writes, ‘As we have seen, Hertzberg admits that even when trusting another is not a matter of reliance, it can prove to be misplaced. The other may betray the trust. By contrast, the religious trust in others can never be said to be misplaced.’ That means, as Phillips notes, that religious trust in any other cannot be misplaced:
Kierkegaard in Works of Love discusses this conception of trust in terms of ‘love of the neighbour’, for, religiously, that is what it is. He points out that if we point to someone on the street, we may be mistaken in thinking that we have pointed to a friend. But anyone we point to is our neighbour. One form trust in the things of God takes, so much so that it is likened to love of God, is to place trust in the neighbour. With trust based on probabilities, or even with the trust we place in others, events can show that these trusts were misplaced. That this should be so is part of what is involved in trusts of this kind; … it is part of their grammar. Where religious trust is concerned, however, to speak of its being misplaced would be a violation of its grammar (Phillips, 2002, pp. 47–9).
Phillips, like Sarot, makes the grammatical point that trust in God can never be said to be misplaced. However, Phillips goes further to apply this point to religious trust in others, that is, with trusting God as expressed in loving one’s neighbor. How can it be that one is never wrong to place one’s trust in her neighbor, knowing that human beings are, inevitably, fallible? Would it not be childish, downright foolish, to believe that one’s trust in another human being could never be misplaced? Addressing this difficulty, Phillips turns to Rush Rhees’s ‘The Sinner and the Sin’. Rhees himself was perplexed over this point. While he was willing to forgive friends who breached his trust, he also recognized that there is a limit to this. ‘It would not be given no matter what the friend did. Can one place such trust in Charles Manson? It seems foolish to say, ‘Don’t think of what Charles Manson has done, think of who he is’, because one feels like responding, ‘Well, who is Charles Manson if not the person who has done these terrible things?’’ (Phillips, 2002, p. 48). There is a difficulty in separating the sinner from his sin, but if we cannot do this, we also cannot make sense of the commandment to love one’s neighbor. Phillips suggests that we can come to understand what it means to say one puts their religious trust in Charles Manson, and, at the same time, that that trust can never be misplaced. He writes, Saying this is not based on a prediction that Charles Manson will, in fact, change as a person. One may be entirely pessimistic about that. But trusting in him, hoping for him, in Christianity, is never to be withdrawn. To withdraw is to give up offering him hope, to give up on him as a person. To say there is hope for him, Rhees argues, is not a psychological remark, like ‘His rage will subside in a moment’. To place trust in another is to see him or her as a child of God. To say that this trust could be misplaced is to say that God’s love and grace could be misplaced (Phillips, 2002, p. 48).
Phillips attempts to describe an understanding of religious trust in the neighbor that is reflective, not prior to, or the basis of, our judgments. Rather, like the religious trust he speaks of in a Charles Manson, it is not necessarily optimistic about how someone might repent and transform. An irresponsible trust might allow Manson certain privileges, believe his claims of repentance and reformation, and even
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release him on parole. A religious trust would not necessarily do any of these things. It is neither irresponsible nor childish. But it is not clear what sense can we make of being ‘entirely pessimistic’ about a person, yet still not ‘giving up on him as a person’? Rhees writes: ‘Separating the sin from the sinner’: probably one needs some Christian idea of the soul—something that is ‘he’ and the same through everything he does … Sometimes it means something like: ‘He is still capable of repentance. He is still capable of recognizing the enormity of what he has done, and repenting of it.’—And this of course is a religious remark. It is not based on empirical observation. As though ‘in the overwhelming majority of cases it has been found that …, and so you may be sure …’ (That way of speaking does not fit the notion of ‘repentance’. It fits the ideas of Dr. Eysenck.) ‘It is possible he will repent’ is not a statement of psychology; like ‘it’s possible he will become quiet and gentle’ (Rhees, p. 291).
The important point, therefore, is that religious trust in another is not based upon a psychological prediction about someone’s behavior. Psychological predictions may lead one to believe that life imprisonment is the only plausible, though utterly ineffective and insufficient, punishment for Manson. But religious trust believes there is still a chance for repentance. But there must be some sense in which that possibility of repentance is more than a mere logical possibility. I cannot be entirely pessimistic about the matter, can I? Rhees writes, ‘If I condemn a foul act ‘absolutely’, perhaps I shall be said to be wanting in Christian charity (As I am). But I have not listened carefully enough to know what the next move is’ (Rhees, p. 290). I find myself in a similar position. With that in mind, it is perhaps best to look more closely at the Christian concept of charity. To that end, I turn to Kierkegaard’s Works of Love. Works of Love In Works of Love, Kierkegaard presents a thorough analysis of the Christian concept of religious love, and discusses how this love believes all things, yet is never deceived, hopes all things, yet is never put to shame. In this work, Kierkegaard seems to speak of religious trust both as prior and subsequent to judgment. I want to examine this work more closely in order to get at the issue of the rationality of religious trust. In the first part of Works of Love, which I shall examine first, Kierkegaard speaks of religious trust, or love, as prior to judgment. Later, in the second part of the work, he elucidates how it is that religious trust is both discerning and responsible. Kierkegaard insists that religious love is never childish, yet, it is something available to the child. As such, he portrays religious trust, or love of one’s neighbor,
as something that is not to be understood by assessment of evidence or by rational means. He begins his work by telling his readers that if one is to understand love, one must simply Love! The ability to love, to understand the commandment, is available to everyone. Kierkegaard writes, ‘Fundamentally we understand all the highest things. A child, the simplest man, the wisest, all understand the highest things and everyone the same, for this is, if I may put it so, one lesson we have all been assigned.’ Religious trust is a duty. God’s command to love one’s neighbor is binding on all people; and given that some human beings are incapable of rational discernment, whether by age or by mental capacity, it must thus be true that religious trust expressed in such love does not require the capacity for rational judgment. Thus, ‘the eternal in speaking about the highest assumes calmly that every man can do it, and merely asks therefore, whether or not he has done it’. The duty to love, able to be fulfilled by all, is binding on all. That seems clear enough, but Kierkegaard warns that love of one’s neighbor is not a hypothesis about the world or some principle available to an armchair philosopher in the abstract; instead, love, for Kierkegaard, is action. ‘To love one’s neighbour means, while remaining within the earthly distinctions allotted to one, essentially to will to exist equally for every human being without exception’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 88–92). But this willing is not separable from acting in the world. One must live the commandment. If one is to know love, know that love exists, one must believe. ‘Believe in love!’ Kierkegaard begs his reader, for ‘this is the first and last thing to be said about love if one is to know what love is’. Characteristically, Kierkegaard draws distinctions between the religious and the worldly; and because worldly concepts typically masquerade as religious ones, discrimination is required to navigate between them. Religious love versus love as the world understands it is the subject of Works of Love. ‘The poisonous spirit of distrust,’ Kierkegaard tells us, is contrary to love. Prudence, however—’presumptuous practicality’—denies love’s existence; and while one can give evidence of love (since love can be known by its fruits), prudence’s demands for evidence are a sign of distrust. He asks, ‘But now even if it is true that love is recognizable by its fruits, let us not, for all that, impatiently, suspiciously, judgingly demand continually and perpetually to see the fruits in the relationship of love with another.’ Kierkegaard at first entreated his readers to believe in love, since that belief is first necessary if one is to know anything about love. Now he asks his readers again to believe in love. He writes, At first it was said in contrast to the presumptuous practicality which wants to deny the existence of the love; now, however, after the recognisability of love by its fruits has been developed, it is said in opposition to the morbid, anxious, shrewd mean-heartedness which in petty, miserable mistrust insists upon seeing the fruits. Do not forget that it would be a beautiful, a noble, a holy fruit by which love in you would become known if in relation to another person, whose life perhaps bears poorer fruit, you were loving enough to see it as more beautiful
Trusting Others, Trusting God than it is. If mistrust can see something as less than it actually is, love also can see something as greater than it is (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 32–3).
Here it seems that Kierkegaard characterizes religious love as irrational, if not infantile: Love can see something as greater than it is. It does not demand evidence. Is it, then, unchristian to demand evidence that Manson has reformed, even if that evidence is not psychological evidence? What is more, Kierkegaard advocates religious trust in which that risk which is peculiar to trust, namely, seeing someone as greater than they are, is portrayed as trust’s benefit. Is it the good providence of religious trust to see Charles Manson as reformed even if he is not? Kierkegaard insists this is so. But he has no delusion that religious trust will be misunderstood, warning us that religious love is something very different than worldly love. Religious love, love of one’s neighbor, is ‘easily misunderstood and exposed to hate’; it is ‘thankless’. Love of neighbor, Kierkegaard, states, does not fit well with common worldly relationships and with ‘earthly temporal distinctions’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 80). Obviously, to love one’s neighbor must be understandable, not only by the logical point that an understanding of God’s commands is available to all human beings, but certainly by the point that Kierkegaard invests so many pages in making this concept understandable. But, religious trust requires a way of ‘seeing’ that is contrary to the usual, worldly way of seeing. ‘One sees his neighbour,’ Kierkegaard writes, ‘only with closed eyes or by looking away from all distinctions. The sensual eye always sees distinctions and pays attention to the distinctions. Therefore worldly prudence shouts early and late: ‘Look before you love’’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 79). Prudence advocates a measure of suspicion with every relationship of trust, but prudence cannot lead one to religious trust. This should not be a surprise to anyone, however, since prudence is not doled out in equal proportions; but religious trust is available to all equally. The difference, for Kierkegaard, between what he calls the ‘true lover’ and anyone else is thus neither the rational capacity one has for understanding the commandment nor the ability one has to carry it out. To understand rationally, abstractly, how one is to love one’s neighbor is not the same as living the commandment. Kierkegaard discusses these opposing ways of understanding in terms of distance and closeness. Understanding what it is to love one’s neighbor requires a religious perspective, since ‘it is really only in [God’s] company that one discovers to love his neighbour’. To understand the commandment in abstraction is no measure of whether one truly understands it, that is, lives it. ‘But what makes the difference,’ he writes, ‘is whether we understand it at a distance—then we do not act accordingly—or close at hand—then we do act accordingly and ‘cannot do otherwise’, cannot keep from doing it’ Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 87). When we understand ‘close at hand’, that is, when we live loving our neighbor, it is perceived as a commandment, an obligation, rather than some abstract principle. As such, understanding the commandment, where understanding it denotes living it, does not require intelligence, prudence, or the capacity for judgment. The Samaritan’s
response to the man who fell among thieves is an unreflective response, one ‘he cannot help doing’. Understanding the commandment to love one’s neighbor requires a distance from the ‘confusion of life and the world’, and it is facilitated by a life without turmoil and chaos. Kierkegaard writes, To sit in a room where everything is so still that one can hear a grain of sand fall and then to understand the highest—this everyone can do; but, speaking figuratively, to have to sit in the kettle which the coppersmith is hammering and then to have the same understanding—well, then understanding must have been very close at hand, otherwise it would show itself to be at a distance—because one was absent from understanding.—In the still hour’s remoteness from the confusion of life, a child, the simplest person, and the wisest one all understand, and almost with equal ease, what every man ought to do—what every man should do (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 88).
Kierkegaard cautions that there are many instances in which a man seemingly understands the commandment to love his neighbor but those instances are really only instances of earthly understanding. The distinction between love in the religious sense and in the common sense is difficult to pilot. However, it is never difficult to identify one’s neighbor. It is impossible to err in identifying someone, because anyone you can single out is your neighbor. But what is important to note is that the identification of one’s neighbor can only truly occur if the other is ‘close at hand’. Abstractly, ‘at a distance’, everyone is capable of understanding who their neighbor is; this is the worldly conception of neighbor, humanity in the abstract. But religious love calls for an unconditional acceptance of each individual as one’s neighbor in the proximity of concrete relationships. ‘If you do not see him so close that you unconditionally before God see him in every man, you do not see him at all’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 89). Religious love is a love of all human beings; but earthly love is characterized by the very individuality of its object. Trust in one’s neighbor is trust offered to all human beings, but earthly trust is offered to few. Worldly wisdom advises one to be selfish, to ‘look out for number one’, and this shows that ‘the world does not understand what love is … because it has neither God nor one’s neighbour as a middle term’. With God as the middle term, the religious conception of trust differs radically from the non-religious conception: The purely human conception of love can never go further than mutuality: that the lover is the beloved and the beloved is the lover. Christianity teaches that such a love has not yet found its proper object: God. The love-relationship is a triangular relationship of the lover, the beloved, love—but love is God. Therefore to love another person means to help him to love God and to be loved means to be helped (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 122–4).
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Rush Rhees has written of trying to understand the idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin by suggesting that the idea requires a Christian concept of the soul, ‘something that is ‘he’ and the same through everything he does’ (Rhees, p. 231). That is, what is required is some idea of personal identity that is separable from one’s actions. Understandably, Rhees is puzzled when he hears ‘You have to distinguish between what he does and what he is.’ Kierkegaard suggests a different route: ‘The man whose distinction is to be like most men understands equality between man and man’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 89). Thus while Rhees suggests that understanding the dictum requires an appeal to the idea of a soul as some mark of individuality—the soul of Charles Manson as distinct from the souls of others—what Kierkegaard, in contrast, suggests is not a mark of individuality, but of commonality: No, everyman is your neighbour. In being king, beggar, scholar, rich man, poor man, male, female, etc., we do not resemble each other—therein we are all different. But in being a neighbour we are all unconditionally like each other. Distinction is temporality’s confusing element which marks every man as different, but neighbour is eternity’s mark—on every man. Take many sheets of paper and write something different on each one—then they do not resemble each other. But then take again every single sheet; do not let yourself be confused by the differentiating inscriptions; hold each one up to the light and you see the same watermark on them all. Thus is neighbour the common mark, but you see it only by the help of the light of the eternal when it shines through distinction (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 97).
Thus, loving the sinner and not the sin requires that I see some universal mark on the sinner, something, as it were, that he has in common with me. It requires, therefore, that if I am to see Charles Manson as my neighbor, I must not focus on what sets us apart, namely, his viciousness and his crimes. I must instead see something in him that I share, and what that is must be our relationship to God, to love itself. My religious trust in Manson must be oriented towards the possibilities that exist for him and for me as well: repentance, salvation. From a worldly perspective, acknowledgment of the universal may lead one to despair both for oneself and for others, since the world informs us that what we have in common is our fallibility. But, seen from a religious perspective, the view is different. Phillips, appealing to Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, writes: In Christianity, hope for oneself depends on the hope one has for others. Not that one hopes for others in order to have hope for oneself, which would be a vulgar instrumentalism, but that hoping for others constitutes the hope there is for oneself. To receive grace is to see oneself as the object of such hope (Phillips, 2002, p. 50).
Kierkegaard states, with absolute confidence, that love believes all things and yet is never deceived. He is, of course, aware of the apparent absurdity in this statement and thus engages in an explanation of how religious love can be utterly trusting but never childish or irrational, ‘for according to the language and view of prudence to love in such a way that one is never deceived is the most foolish and stupid thing a man can do’. We must be careful to distinguish this religious trust from other forms of belief that are less perfect and sometimes even foolish, ‘for truly not everyone who believes all things is on that account a lover, and not everyone who believes all things is on that account assured against every deception—not even faith, if it is to believe all things’. So there is a distinction between naïve optimism and religious faith, but both are subject to the possibility of being cheated. He writes, Love believes all things.—Frivolity, inexperience, simplicity believe everything that is said; vanity, conceit, self-satisfaction believe everything flattering that is said; envy, spite, corruption believe everything evil that is said; mistrust believes nothing at all. Experience will teach that one acts most prudently by not believing everything—but love believes all things. Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 213–14)
Again, Kierkegaard stresses that love is an act; specifically, believing all things is an act, not merely an abstract concept. ‘To be assured against every deception is an act, a task, completely synonymous with believing all things, so that one can just as well say without qualification that love believes all things or that it never is deceived, since they are one and the same thing’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 214). Astonishingly, in contrast to the world’s understanding, the love that believes all things is the complete converse of mistrust. Kierkegaard acknowledges that the world does not completely oppose trust. Like the members of Hobbes’ commonwealth who give up their rights in a covenant designed to promote peace, ‘strangely enough, men perhaps prefer to make a compromise’. Kierkegaard writes that this compromise is ‘a contentious compromise between mistrust, which loving a little nevertheless believes something, and love, which somewhat mistrustful nevertheless has this and that misgiving’. But, Kierkegaard argues, this reliance on mistrust is muddled, and not only from a religious perspective. Mistrust relies on a ‘deep secret’, a mistake of reason that is commonly overlooked. Mistrust’s ‘secret’ is ‘a misuse of knowledge, a misuse which straightaway wishes in one breath to link its conclusion and interpretation to something which as knowledge is entirely true’. Mistrust appears to be grounded on objective knowledge, but this is false: ‘one does not believe on the basis of knowledge’. Kierkegaard writes, What mistrust says or presents is really only knowledge; the secret or the falsity lies in this that it straightaway converts this knowledge into a belief, making belief appear to be nothing at all, making it appear as if it were something requiring no attention, since surely everyone who has the same knowledge ‘must
Trusting Others, Trusting God necessarily come to the same conclusion’, as if it were therefore eternally certain and absolutely decided that when knowledge is given the conclusion is also decided (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 214–15).
The worldly conception of trust, which is really mostly composed of mistrust, claims to be based upon objective knowledge. This is why worldly trust is dependent upon knowledge and rationality. But there is a prior decision of what will count as evidence towards the conclusion. A fundamental decision of faith renders a different knowledge than a fundamental decision of despair. Based on the same knowledge or evidence, one who trusts can come to the opposite conclusion from one who does not trust, since the conclusion is not based upon the knowledge or ‘evidence’. For Kierkegaard, trust is prior to a judgment of facts, but it is dependent upon one’s values, and, therefore, of whom one is morally. In this respect, religious trust involves an essential decision: Precisely because existence will test you, test your love or whether there is love in you, for this very reason with the help of the understanding it presents you with truth and deception as two equal possibilities in contrast to each other, so that there must be a revelation of what is in you since you judge, that is, since in judging you choose … When deception and truth are presented as two unequal possibilities in contrast to each other, the decision is whether there is love or mistrust in you (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 215).
Love, Kierkegaard tells us, aware of the basic uncertainty of what lies in the heart of another, decides to believe the best of a person. ‘If someone thinks that a man should not believe even the best person, for it is still possible that he is a deceiver,’ he writes, ‘then the opposite also holds true, that you can expect the good from even the lowest fellow, for it is still possible that his baseness is an illusion.’ Christian love is not blind love, however. Mistrust holds nothing over trust—no knowledge that trust lacks, no wisdom or earthly advice; since what mistrust knows, love also knows, as love and mistrust are ‘initiated in the same knowledge’. Religious love is not based in ‘naïveté and ignorance. No, above all, love knows better than anyone else everything that mistrust knows, yet without being mistrustful; love knows what experience knows, but it also knows that what men call experience is really a mixture of mistrust and love’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 216). Kierkegaard’s characterization of worldly experience is similar to Hertzberg’s concept of reliance and Kierkegaard shows that reliance is in the category of worldly or the pagan. But Kierkegaard’s characterization of religious trust as trust in one’s neighbor differs. Hertzberg examined trust in God, concluding that God as the source of all reason and goodness exemplifies religious trust in God for the believer. When religious trust is trust in another, however, ‘with God as the middle term’, to use Kierkegaard’s phrase, the other does not necessarily embody goodness and reason for the other. In fact, this religious trust—love for one’s neighbor—must necessarily not meet that criterion. Loving one’s neighbor
so that the neighbor is the complete embodiment of goodness and reason would, for Kierkegaard, be an instance of worldly love. Only God should be loved in that way. But religious trust in others must occur in light of God and it is God’s goodness and reason that commands that and how the other is to be loved. Religious love, then, does not begin with knowledge, but with faith. Kierkegaard draws a sharp distinction between knowledge and faith: ‘knowledge per se is impersonal and must be communicated impersonally. Knowledge places everything in the category of possibility, and to the extent that it is in possibility it is outside the reality of existence.’ But in contrast, he insists, ‘The individual first of all begins his life with ergo, with faith … In knowledge there is no decision; decision, the determinedness and determining characteristic of personalities is first in ergo, in faith.’ He continues, Knowledge is the infinite art of equivocation or the infinite equivocation; at its utmost it means precisely to place contrasting possibilities in equilibrium. To be able to do this is to have knowledge, and only he who knows how to communicate contrasting possibilities in equipoise, only he communicates knowledge. To communicate decision in knowledge or knowledge in decision is upside-down … Knowledge is not mistrust, for knowledge is infinitely detached, the infinite indifference in equilibrium; nor is knowledge a contamination; since it is infinitely detached. The mistrustful person and the lover have knowledge in common, and neither is the mistrustful person mistrustful because of knowledge nor is the loving person loving because of knowledge. But when a man’s knowledge has placed contrasting possibilities in equilibrium and he wants or has to judge, then what he believes in becomes apparent, who he is, whether he is mistrustful or loving (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 218).
Kierkegaard believes that our ‘natural fear’ of ‘believing too well of a person’ is motivated vanity and pride, ‘for this is a competition between cleverness and cleverness’; but, he suggests, we err equally when we do not believe well enough of a person. Since ‘the lover truly fears being in error,’ he writes, ‘therefore he believes all things’. And, he adds, ‘At the very moment you judge another person or criticize another person, you judge yourself. For to judge another means ultimately only to judge oneself or to reveal oneself.’ One’s faith is revealed. But the mistrustful person is in danger of more than merely being in error: she is exposed to evil. Mistrust tends towards evil because it does not believe in anything. Kierkegaard warns that a person who believes nothing begins to believe evil. To believe nothing is the beginning of being evil, for it shows that one has no good in him, since faith is precisely the good in a man, which does not come through great knowledge, nor need it be lacking because knowledge is meager. Mistrust cannot maintain knowledge in equilibrium; it defiles its knowledge and therefore tends towards envy, spite, corruption, which believes all evil (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 219–21).
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Kierkegaard points out that religious trust in the neighbor is neither a type of knowledge nor a type of understanding. He writes, ‘In mistrust to believe nothing at all and lovingly to believe everything (which are quite different from the knowledge of the equality of these mutually contrasting possibilities) are neither understanding nor conclusions of understanding, but a choice which makes its appearance precisely when knowledge has placed these two mutually contrasting possibilities into balance.’ Unlike religious trust, ‘frivolity, inexperience and simplicity’ are grounded in ‘a foolish understanding;’ but religious love, believing all things, ‘is a choice through the power of love’. And religious love is not foolish; Kierkegaard writes, ‘Instead of using its keenness to strengthen itself in believing nothing, as mistrust does, love uses its keenness to discover the same thing—that deception and truth both stretch just as far—and now concludes in the power of the faith which it has; ergo I believe everything’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 225). The true lover can never be deceived, according to Kierkegaard, precisely because he believes everything, and as long as his love remains true love. Kierkegaard does not pretend that one can become a true lover easily, without struggle, for while understanding the concept of love intellectually may be unproblematic, becoming a true lover is another matter altogether. ‘There is a lower sphere of understanding,’ Kierkegaard writes, ‘which has no intimation of true love, of love in and for itself, and of this blessedness in itself.’ This lower sphere represents a constant challenge to anyone trying to live in the light of love. Kierkegaard says: The difficulty is that a great multiplicity of illusions will hold a man down in this lower sphere of understanding where deception and being deceived signify exactly the opposite of what they signify in the infinite conception of love. According to this view to be deceived signifies simply and solely to quit loving, to be carried away to the point of abandoning love in and for itself, and in this way to lose its intrinsic blessedness. For only one deception is possible in the infinite sense—self-deception (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 222–3).
The higher sphere of understanding so reorients an individual that even death is understood differently by the faithful than by the untrusting. But, again, such an understanding is difficult to maintain: One need not infinitely fear them who are able to kill the body; to be killed is, infinitely, no danger; nor is the kind of deception the world talks about a danger. And, again, this is not difficult to understand. The difficult thing is to fulfill the task of acquiring the true conception of love or, better yet, to become the true lover. For he defends himself against deception and fights to preserve himself in the true love precisely by believing all things. But the illusion will continually obtrude itself as does the illusion which maintains that the sun moves, although one still knows that it is the earth (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 223).
The stark contrast between true love and worldly love is highlighted, in the paragraph above, by the statement that ‘one need not infinitely fear them who are able to kill the body; to be killed is, infinitely, no danger; nor is the kind of deception the world talks about a danger’. True love exists only in the presence of God. In the presence of goodness itself, even death becomes something not to be feared, but accepted. This is contrary to the worldly conception of love, in which affection is exchanged for affection. When love is so conceived, it is easy to see how one can be deceived, if one does not get the expected affection in return for what he has given; but, as Kierkegaard makes note, one who conceives of love in this manner is not a true lover. What is more, he is deceived, not only by the one who did not return his love, but also at a deeper level, by himself. ‘He and all like-minded persons are nevertheless essentially deceived by having their lives in the world, which is the illusion, in the world, where all are essentially victims, whether one deceived grumbles about someone else or the other person brags about not having been deceived.’ He continues, ‘The difference is no greater than if in an insane asylum one patient were to consider himself better than another because he is not insane in the same way—whereas all of them are nevertheless essentially insane.’ In the world, all are victims whether they see it or not; but those who love in the presence of the eternal are never victims. Kierkegaard does allow that the true lover, ‘in a certain sense’, does know that he is being deceived—from the point of view of the world, he knows that he has not received affection in exchange for affection; but from the perspective of the eternal, ‘One cannot deceive the true lover, who believes all things, for to deceive him is to deceive oneself.’ The superiority, the ‘unassailable position’, of the true lover is achieved ‘precisely by unconditionally not requiring the slightest reciprocity’. But this is more than a simple case of the dictum that if one expects nothing, one can never be disappointed, for the true lover is rewarded even in such a situation. Kierkegaard explains: The deceiver, therefore, has cunningly gotten the lover to love him—but this is just what the lover is infinitely willing to do; the deceiver has presumably fooled him by not loving in return—but the true lover regards the very requirement of reciprocity to be a contamination, a devaluation, and loving without the reward of reciprocated love to be the highest blessedness … The true lover has become richer, because for every additional person he gets to love and for every additional time he gives his love with no claim of reciprocity, he becomes richer (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 223–7).
Although the true lover may be mistaken as a simpleton, as shallow, as ‘a poor abandoned wretch whom everyone can deceive’, he is not weak, but strong. He is strong because he exists in the presence of God. We mistake him for being weak because ‘the lover, who believes all things, is not revealed directly’. Again, religious trust is not cowardly:
Trusting Others, Trusting God For such a love has courage, courage to believe all things (truly the highest courage!), courage to endure the slights and mockery of the world (truly the greatest victory, greater than any which is won in the world, for it overcomes the world!), courage to endure the world’s judgment that it is so indescribably foolish, although the world can quite clearly understand what his resolution is about but not his resolution, no more than the mistrustful world can understand the blessedness which the true lover has within himself (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 229).
One cannot misplace her trust in God, Kierkegaard insists. ‘There is in time and eternity only one possible deception in relationship to true love—self-deception or giving up love.’ Trust in God is never misplaced, for even if one’s faith in God fails, it is only on the part of the lover, now given up on true love, that religious trust can fail. This danger is close at hand because the worldly concept of love competes for our attention as we are creatures of the world. ‘The infinite, the eternal, and therefore the true are so foreign to a man by nature that it is with him as with the dog which can indeed learn to walk upright but still always prefers to walk on all fours’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 229–30). The world intrudes on our ability to maintain the higher conception of love. It is difficult, given what the world presents as evidence, to have hope for someone like Charles Manson. From the perspective of the world, he seems a lost cause. The world searches for scientific or psychological ‘knowledge’ about the possibility of Manson’s reformation and it will likely find little evidence to ground any hope for him. The world offers no hope for people who have committed the kinds of crimes that Manson has committed, and who share his psychological profile. But religious hope, again, is different than worldly hope, and Kierkegaard brings out the differences. For Kierkegaard, the opposite of hoping all things in love is to despair, to hope nothing at all. ‘To relate oneself expectantly to the possibility of the good is to hope, which therefore cannot be some temporal expectancy but rather an eternal hope.’ Relating oneself to the possibility of the good is to relate oneself to God, to the possibilities that God has to offer. ‘Only in pure possibility,’ he writes, ‘consequently for the purely or indifferently expectant, is the possibility of the good or of the evil equivocal. In the differentiation … the possibility of the good is more than possibility, for it is the eternal. This is the basis of the fact that one who hopes can never be deceived.’ Therefore, a religious perspective dictates that the good—God—exists, and, therefore, hope for the eternal is more than possibility because it is a hope for what already is. Kierkegaard contrasts this religious concept of hope with the worldly concept: ‘In ordinary speech one often calls something hope which is not hope at all, but desire, longing, longing-filled expectancy, now of one thing, now of another, in short, the relationship of the expectant person to manifold possibility’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 234). This is why worldly hope is the possession of youth. As we age, our possibilities dwindle. We seem to leave possibilities behind us. Kierkegaard says, ‘Without the eternal one lives by the help of habit, prudence, conformity, experience, custom and usage.’
In fact, take them all, put them all together, prepare the mixture over the smouldering or merely earthly ignited fire of passions, and you will discover that you can get all kinds of things out of it: variously concocted tough slime which men call a realistic view of life—but one never gets possibility out of this, possibility, the miracle which is so infinitely fragile … so infinitely delicate … and yet, brought into being, shaped, by the very help of the eternal, it is nevertheless stronger than anything else, if it is the possibility of the good! (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 235)
In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard understands Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith in God as embodied in their hope for a child even when Sarah was long past the age of bearing children. But they hoped, he writes, and in their hope they are young: Abraham believed, and therefore he was young; for he who always hopes for the best becomes old, deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst becomes old prematurely; but he who has faith, retains eternal youth … Outwardly the wonder of faith is in Abraham’s and Sarah’s being young enough for it to happen according to their expectations; in a deeper sense the wonder of faith lies in Abraham’s and Sarah’s being young enough to wish, and in faith’s having preserved their wish and through it their youthfulness (Kierkegaard, 1985, p. 52).
Abraham’s faith endured and he was thus able to hope. Without faith, without God, one ‘lives without possibility’ and is in despair. One who despairs ‘breaks with the eternal; he arbitrarily closes off possibility and without the assent of eternity makes an end where the end is not’. Kierkegaard tells us that one who has hope is like ‘one who takes dictation and continually keeps his pencil ready for the next words so that he does not presume to put down a period meaninglessly before the meaning is complete or rebelliously to throw the pencil away’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 236). To hope is not only to relate oneself to God, but also to relate oneself to others. Hoping in love for others, the true lover keeps open the possibility of the good. ‘Consequently he hopes in love that possibility is present at every moment, that the possibility of the good is present for the other person, and that the possibility of the good means more and more glorious advancement in the good from perfection to perfection or resurrection from downfall or salvation.’ One who is in despair does not lack knowledge of what is possible, rather, he ‘dismisses possibility … he rashly presumes to suppose the impossibility of the good’ and by this presumption, this dismissal, ‘the possible dies completely for him’. The despairing person and the person who hopes both acknowledge what is possible, ‘but they are eternally separated, for despair hopes nothing at all for others and love hopes all things’. Again, it is not understanding that separates the faithful from the pagan, but the faithful one’s fundamental choice to believe the good. ‘When a man cannot understand what the lover understands,’ Kierkegaard writes, ‘it must be because
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he is not a lover; it must be because there is something which prevents him from keeping possibility pure.’ Again, what keeps a person within the lower conception of possibility is the world: ‘the earthly passions of the unloving mind, for in itself worldliness is heavy, ponderous, sluggish, slack, dispirited, dejected and will not entertain the possible, least of all the possibility of the good, either for its own sake or for another’s.’ Despair is cowardly because it lacks the courage to hope. Despair is vain because it fears the shame it would experience if its hope were to be misplaced. ‘In this way the worldly, vain mentality protects itself by hoping nothing at the right time and considers hoping all things in love to be infinitely foolish and infinitely laughable.’ The despairing person has broken with the eternal, and thus also with hope and possibility. Kierkegaard explains: When all of these, this shrewdness, this anger and bitterness, this envy and malice, this cowardly, fearful small-mindedness, this worldly, vain mentality, when all these or some of them are in a man and to the degree in which they are … there is less of the eternal in him, there is also less possibility, less awareness of possibility (for possibility appears through the temporal movement of the eternal within the eternal in a human being; if there is nothing eternal in a man, the movement of the eternal is in vain and there is no possibility) (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 237–41).
Love hopes all things and is never put to shame. The religious conception of hope does not fear being shamed because hope is misplaced. Religious hope is never misplaced and thus is never put to shame. But, Kierkegaard writes, ‘If anything at all is to be said about being put to shame with regard to hope and expectation, the shame must lie deeper, must lie in what one hopes, so that one is consequently brought to shame whether his hope is fulfilled or not’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 244). Therefore, if I hope for Charles Manson’s repentance, for his salvation, I cannot be put to shame in hoping this. But to hope that he ‘gets what he deserves’ is shameful. To hope for his recovery, as distinguished from his repentance, is shameful, as if there were a drug available that could render Manson harmless and he could thus be returned to society. Kierkegaard suggests that hoping for something that is really shameful to hope for is truly not hope at all, since ‘to hope is essentially and eternally related to the good’. But to render Manson a lost cause is shameful. ‘One can be put to shame by giving up hope for another man, if it now becomes apparent that he is nevertheless saved or even, perhaps, that his downfall was in our imagination.’ Kierkegaard writes, ‘Here one is really put to shame, because to give up on another man is in itself a dishonour, no matter what the actual outcome is’ (Kierkegaard, 1964, p. 244). Kierkegaard insists that religious trust in the neighbor can never be brought to shame, even if what one hopes never comes about. To have religious hope in Manson is not disgraceful, even if Manson in fact never repents. But, one may ask, ‘Is it not possible that a man could be eternally lost? If the lover had hoped all things, hoped the possibility of the good for this person, then he would be put
to shame by this hope.’ Kierkegaard answers this objection by referring to the parable of the prodigal son. He asks whether the father would be shamed if the prodigal son were to die in shame. He answers no, because the father stood by the son, and his steadfastness is honorable. Only the son is to blame. Even if the son is damned, Kierkegaard writes, the father bears no shame. God’s measure of shame and honor, he tells us, differs from the world’s measure: The eternal … divorces from itself as vanity and cleverness which speaks only about the extent to which one’s expectation has been fulfilled but does not at all consider just what the expectation was. In eternity everyone will be compelled to understand that it is not the result which determines the honour and shame, but the expectation itself … in eternity there is only one mistake: through the fulfillment of one’s picayunish, envious, hateful expectations to be excluded from blessedness! And in eternity, no mockery shall wound the lover … for in eternity the cry of the mocker is not heard, even less than in the grave, because in eternity are heard only the voices of the blessed! (Kierkegaard, 1964, pp. 245–6)
The person who fails to repent, fails to attain salvation, stands in shame, and holds nothing over the one who believed in her. The religious conception of hope is interested in the outcome of the neighbor’s life, but is not judged by that outcome. So can I be entirely pessimistic about Manson, but still hold religious hope for him? Since God is the middle term in the triangle of love between myself and my neighbor, loving my neighbor means that I trust that God is eternally present to him, that the possibility for his salvation is always at hand. I may be pessimistic, perhaps, in thinking that he will ever conform to the world’s understanding of reformation which is informed by psychological tests. A skillful deceiver could pass a battery of tests, fool a parole board, and remain a vicious criminal. But it is also possible, as Kierkegaard notes, that one could seem unrepentant and have found God. Given these equal possibilities, the true lover hopes the best. This hope, however, must hold salvation as more than a logical possibility; but, then, to believe is to believe in more than just the possible. It is to believe, as Kierkegaard would have it, in the possibility of the good, which is more than possibility. In the second part of Works of Love, which I have discussed above, Kierkegaard endeavors to show how the religious conception of trust is neither childish, nor foolish, nor irrational. He does this by contrasting religious concepts with worldly concepts, showing how worldly concepts rely on knowledge and prediction, whereas religious concepts do not. Trust, from the perspective of the world, is childish if it is not based on sufficient evidence. But prior to knowledge and evidence, one makes a fundamental decision whether to trust or not. When one loves her neighbor, she trusts but is never deceived. To hope, from the perspective of the world, is a shameful failure if what one hopes for does not come to pass. When one loves her neighbor, she hopes but is never brought to shame. The true
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lover knows everything that the one in despair knows, but her orientation to that knowledge is fundamentally different. Religious trust, as Kierkegaard depicts it, is prior to judgment, but for that it is not childish. This does not mean that religious trust is never reflective or questioning. It certainly can be, but it is rooted in a more basic decision which itself is not based on understanding. Religious and Non-religious Frames of Reference In order to see how it is possible for it to be true that religious trust can be prior to judgment and at the same time escape the charge of infantilism, it will be instructive to look at a description Wittgenstein gives of religious belief in Culture and Value. This description resonates with Kierkegaard’s description of Christianity: It strikes me that a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although it’s belief, it’s really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. It’s passionately seizing hold of this interpretation. Instruction in a religious faith, therefore, would have to take the form of a portrayal, a description, of that system of reference, while at the same time being an appeal to conscience. And this combination would have to result in the pupil himself, of his own accord, passionately taking hold of the system of reference. It would be as though someone were first to let me see the hopelessness of my situation and then show me the means of rescue until, of my own accord, or not at any rate led to it by my instructor, I ran to and grasped it (Wittgenstein, 1980, p. 64).
D. Z. Phillips in ‘Ethics, Faith and ‘What Can Be Said’’ confirms that this passage is representative of Wittgenstein’s later thought. Wittgenstein early on stated that religion, as well as ethics, is what cannot be said; but later he came to see this view as problematic. ‘In later views,’ Phillips writes, ‘Wittgenstein brings out the grammar of religious beliefs, but emphasizes the temptation to turn them into factual, empirical propositions which leads to nonsense.’ In order to show this, Phillips cites several examples from Wittgenstein’s work, beginning with his discussion of the feeling of absolute safety. Wittgenstein identified this feeling as a religious feeling, but the feeling that one is absolutely safe looks absurd if it is taken to be literally true. Phillips writes, ‘The feeling of being absolutely safe is … rendered meaningless if compared with safety from specific, factual threats. ‘I am safe in my room, when I cannot be run over by an omnibus. I am safe if I have had whooping cough and cannot therefore get it again.’’ In common usage, ‘to be safe essentially means that it is physically impossible that certain things should happen to me and therefore it’s nonsense to say that I am safe whatever happens’ (Phillips, 2001, p. 359). But the religious use of the concept differs grammatically from the common use. When viewed from the common perspective, as Phillips points out, one is unable to make any sense out of religious statements like Kierkegaard’s
insistence that the innocent cannot be harmed. Kierkegaard himself shows how a common, worldly perspective fails to elucidate the concepts of religious trust and love of one’s neighbor. He blames the inability to understand religious concepts on ‘worldliness’ and ‘worldly passions’, but Wittgenstein brings out the conceptual nature of the difficulty. ‘The dominance of science in our culture,’ Phillips writes, ‘makes it difficult for us to acknowledge the miraculous, since what such an acknowledgement asks of us, is very different from what is asked of us by our naturalistic enquiries’ (Phillips, 2001, pp. 359–60). Religious concepts have no place in a secular, scientific frame of reference. At the least, the place they hold, their meanings, differs substantially from their place in the religious sphere. If one is to understand religious concepts like love of one’s neighbor, one must gain a sense of that system of reference that provides a home for religious concepts. The feeling of absolute safety provides an effective example of a religious concept misunderstood, because we cannot make any sense, from a non-religious perspective, of what this could possibly mean. But a more insidious difficulty arises when the non-religious perspective can make some sense of religious language; that is, when a naturalistic perspective invades religious belief and tempts the believer (or the philosopher of religion) to what Kierkegaard calls ‘the lower conception’ of religious language. Phillips describes the effect of a naturalistic perspective on the concept of resurrection, where belief in the resurrection is ‘misapplied as a science of supernatural facts’. Wittgenstein, Phillips writes, claimed that he sometimes reflected on religious belief, ‘wanting to believe in it to release him from his fear from death in the way surviving it would’. Here, Phillips notes, ‘the Resurrection answers a fear and a hope intelligible and independent of it’. But the concept of the resurrection is not independent of religious fears and hopes. In order to understand what resurrection means one must grasp the other religious concepts that surround it. Kierkegaard showed how religious hope is dependent upon concepts of salvation, repentance, and love; but when that hope is appealed to without its surrounding web of meaning, the result is not a religious concept at all: In contemporary philosophy of religion it is said that Resurrection involves God reassembling our particles in ways unknown to us; a super-science with a vengeance. Wittgenstein contrasts this kind of belief with one in which he says, ‘Only love can believe the Resurrection’, where the hope created in such a belief is itself a religious hope; hope in a crucified one who is exalted, raised on high. The terms ‘exalted’, ‘raised’ and ‘high’ are evaluative. They become nonsense when turned into a science of supernatural facts—which it would not take love to believe (Phillips, 2001, p. 362).
Religious concepts derive their meaning from a religious frame of reference; as such, if we are to understand the meaning of religious concepts, we must see their place within that sphere, but not as answers to questions from without. We must be sensitive to the questions—the hopes and fears—that arise within the religious perspective if we are to understand the answers that religion provides.
Trusting Others, Trusting God Like beliefs in predestination and resurrection, belief in creation, too, can be misapplied as a kind of scientific theory, whereas, Wittgenstein says, ‘If someone who believes in God looks round and asks ‘Where does everything I see come from?’, ‘Where does all this come from?’, he is not craving for a (causal) explanation; and his question gets its point from being the expression of a certain craving’. This craving is a spiritual craving which no science of supernatural facts will satisfy, though it may satisfy cravings of another kind (Phillips, 2001, p. 362).
Thus to ask, ‘What if I lose my trust in God?’ is, from a religious perspective, quite a different question than if asked from a non-religious perspective. To lose one’s faith, from the non-religious perspective, is simply to become a non-believer, to give up going to church, praying, etc. From the perspective of belief, the question expresses a fear that one’s faith is not strong enough, that one will be eternally damned. Wittgenstein’s description of religious belief as a frame of reference is helpful because it enables us to see how religious belief can be prior to judgment and yet not infantile. As a system of reference, or a ‘way of assessing life’, religious belief precedes facts and knowledge. Within that system of reference, determinations of what is childish versus what is mature still apply. At the same time this does not mean that religious belief is not something that one can reflect on. But that reflection must necessarily be deep, for it addresses the very structure of one’s reasoning. In one respect, religious belief is not prior to judgment, but is the result of a judgment—an existential ‘decision’, or a ‘passionate seizing hold’, of the things of God, of the religious sphere itself. But this judgment is not a weighing of facts or evidence. That the world continually tempts the believer to its own conceptuality is evidence that the religious frame of reference is not completely distinct from the naturalistic frame of reference. If this were not so, then coming to belief and falling away from belief would be impossible. Citing Culture and Value, Phillips writes that the religious frame of reference is misrepresented if it is seen as a hypothesis within a wider frame of reference: ‘For dogma is expressed in the form of an assertion, and is unshakable, but at the same time any practical opinion can be made to harmonize with it; admittedly more easily in some cases than in others.’ The lower conception of love is a constant attraction, and one can attempt to understand what is meant by loving one’s neighbor through the lower conception of love; one can seem to understand loving one’s neighbor in this way, but one will not truly understand. The lower conception of religious concepts, or, to escape Kierkegaard’s pejorative language, the naturalistic conceptions of them, are always a part of our frame of reference because they are a part of our nature—as much a part of us as walking on four legs is a part of a dog’s nature. Therefore, religious concepts never represent an absolute limit to what the believer can conceive: Wittgenstein says: ‘It is not a wall setting limits to what can be believed, but more like a brake which, however, practically serves the same purpose; it’s
almost as though someone were to attach a weight to your foot to restrict your freedom of movement. This is how dogma becomes irrefutable and beyond the reach of attack.’ This conclusion does not mean that after an appreciation of that dogma someone could not be repelled by it, or criticize it morally. What now seems out of place, however, is to treat it as a competing hypothesis with secular alternatives within a wider system of reference (Phillips, 2001, p. 363).
Kierkegaard insists that the true lover knows everything that the unbeliever knows. Religious faith is neither blind nor childish. In choosing to trust in the things of God, the religious believer does not suddenly forget how the world conceives of love, faith, and hope. That conceptuality must remain available to her if it is able to tempt her. Far from forgetting the world, the religious believer renounces it. She understands the world’s conceptuality but no longer takes it up as her own. Phillips writes, ‘at its deepest [the dispute between belief and unbelief] is not like embracing or rejecting a claim within a system of reference, but is the acceptance or rejection of a system of reference as such … The recognition of the nature of this dispute does not mean that personal judgment is not called for. On the contrary it clarifies the context in which such judgment is called for’ (Phillips, 2001, p. 364). Understanding religious belief as a passionate commitment to a frame of reference, therefore, also enables us to see how it is that faith can be lost. However, because the movement of belief to unbelief is a movement from one frame of reference to another, grammatical differences exist between how the believer understands the infallibility of religious trust and how one who has fallen away from religious belief understands this. The unbeliever can claim, ‘My religious trust was misplaced.’ He has given up on the things of God, and the entire frame of reference that gave religious trust its religious meaning. Phillips writes that, ‘Conceptions of absolute trust compete for our allegiance.’ He points out that the bible tells us of people who ‘trust in chariots’. This trust in chariots means that some people put their faith in ‘a warrior conception of worth’ that places value on the ability to conquer others and detests weakness. Phillips writes, Since there is a part of us, or, at least, there may be a part of us, which responds to courage, valour and conquests, why should it be a mystery that this conception of trust in chariots is, naturally, at war, or, at least, at variance, with trust in the lowliest creature as a neighbour before God? After all, each notion of trust, in part, at least, is constituted by its opposition to the other. People are attracted by these different conceptions of trust. No general story can be given of the direction in which these allegiances go (Phillips, 2002, pp. 50–51).
Peter Winch cites an example of a loss of religious trust in his article entitled, ‘Moral Integrity’. The example is from Tolstoy’s story Father Sergius. Father Sergius was a brilliant military officer who left the military for a religious order. ‘By In Ethics and Action.
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becoming a monk,’ Tolstoy writes, he not only gained a sense of superiority over military life and those who chose that life, but also experienced ‘a sincere religious feeling … which intertwined itself with the feeling of pride and the desire for preeminence’. Winch says that it is important to note ‘that the “religious feeling” and the “desire for pre-eminence” … must not be regarded as two quite distinct motives which are contingently intermingled’. It is essential to understanding the story and to the philosophical point which I want to make to see that the one is a corrupt form of the other’ (Winch, p. 188). Sergius becomes a renowned hermit, ‘with a great reputation for saintliness’ and Christians come to Sergius to be healed of their afflictions. ‘In the middle of his career a young society woman visits him alone in the night and tries to seduce him. To defend himself against temptation Sergius takes an axe and chops off one of his fingers.’ Later in his career, Sergius begins to have doubts. ‘At the climax of these doubts an intellectually feeble young girl, Marie, who has been sent to him for healing, offers herself to him and he succumbs to the temptation.’ Sergius accuses the girl of being a devil, and she replies, ‘Oh, perhaps. What does it matter?’ Winch writes, ‘My reason for quoting that piece of dialogue lies in Marie’s Glauconian question, ‘What does it matter?’ Sergius’ tragedy was that, from the perspective which he had come to occupy vis-à-vis his religious life, he could no longer see that it did matter’ (Winch, p. 188). Sergius had given up his religious frame of reference, and lost his trust in God and the things of God. Winch explains that, earlier, when Sergius was tempted by lust, he prevailed over his lust by chopping off his finger. ‘He could do this,’ Winch writes, ‘because, at that stage, the problem presented to him by his lust was understood by him from the perspective of a genuine religious belief … it was not then a case of setting the satisfaction of his desire alongside the demands of his religion and choosing between them.’ He continues, The fulfillment of his religious duties was not then for him an object to be achieved. But this is what it had become for him at the time he succumbed to temptation and this indeed is precisely why he succumbed. Marie’s question ‘What does it matter?’ invited a judgment explaining why religious purity is more important than the satisfaction of lust, a comparison, as it were, between two different objects. And no such judgment was possible. I do not mean that earlier, at the time of his strength, Sergius could have answered the question; the point is that, from that earlier perspective, the question did not arise for him (Winch, pp. 188–9).
Sergius, Winch writes, comes to the point that ‘if he tried to commend the religious life, what he was commending was not that at all, but the kudos and admiration it brought him’. The things of God are no longer related internally to Sergius. They are no longer a part of who he is. His relationship to the eternal is now merely
As cited in ‘Moral Integrity’, pp. 187f.
instrumental; the religious life brings him kudos, and this indicates that he has decided against belief. His trust in God has failed. Winch describes the situation in these terms: If one looks at a certain style of life and asks what there is in it which makes it worthwhile, one will find nothing there. One may indeed describe it in terms which bring out ‘what one sees in it’, but the use of these terms already presupposes that one does see it from a perspective from which it matters. The words will fall flat on the ears of someone who does not occupy such a perspective even though he is struggling to attain it. If one tries to find in the object of contemplation that which makes it admirable, what one will in fact see is the admiration and applause that surrounds it. So one will see oneself perhaps as a prospective object of admiration. And then what one is aiming at is to be such an object of admiration. ‘What was internal becomes external’ (Winch, p. 190).
The frame of reference that one commits oneself to then does not represent some abstract calculus by which one then makes judgments as to the rationality of goodness of some act or proposal. One’s frame of reference is internalized—it thus determines how one is to answer the questions one is faced with in life as well as what arises as questions in the first place. Religious trust is a commitment to an entire frame of reference. It is trust in the religious frame of reference. D. Z. Phillips writes, In cultural contexts, more general stories of the waxing and waning notions of trust may be told. For example, if a dominant morality in a society is one which places a high regard on security, planning in the event of contingencies, this will erode conceptions of absolute trust. It is easy to see how marriage vows could be affected (and have been). How can one give absolute trust to another when the future is so uncertain? Surely, such absolute trust is irrational. What one ought to do instead is to secure financial contracts before marriage in case something goes wrong. It is easy to see how this attitude would erode absolute trust. Unconditional vows would be deemed irrational, whereas conditional vows would seem like common sense (Phillips, 2002, p. 51).
Trust in social institutions, like marriage, oscillates with changing moralities within a given society. But religious trust is more susceptible to forces of extinction, since the forces that erode religious trust are perennial—lust, vanity, materialism, etc. However, as Phillips points out, philosophy of religion itself may contribute to the demise of religious trust if it offers truncated explanations of religious concepts, or if it presents an inadequate explanation of religious language as the only possible rational explanation. Trust is a fragile thing, whether it is trust in another person or trust in a social institution, so much more so if we are talking about trust in God and in the things of God.
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In this chapter I have attempted to address the question of whether religious trust is religious trust prior to judgment. Based on my reading of Kierkegaard, I believe that it is. This understanding is aided by Wittgenstein’s picture of religious belief as a frame of reference. As such, religious belief is the substance out of which religious concepts derive their meaning, out of which religious questions are posed, and out of which those questions are answered. Religious concepts and their use in the lives of believers are internally related; to understand the meaning of religious concepts, one must have some understanding of how those concepts play out in religious lives. If one attempts to grasp those concepts abstractly from the outside of the religious frame of reference, the result is an inadequate understanding of religious concepts at best. At worst, the philosopher will conclude that religious concepts simply do not make sense. Baier commits this mistake when she claims that religious trust is infantile. This conclusion is arrived at because the route she takes to religious trust is based upon a more common, ‘worldly’ understanding of trust that relies upon factual evidence for its rationality. Religious trust does not wait upon factual evidence. Its evidence is its own, dictated by the religious framework from which it arises. ‘Love is known by its fruits’, but in order to understand those fruits, one must already love. It should be clear by now that religious trust, whether it is trust in God or love of one’s neighbor, is not childish. This is not the same thing as saying that a believer can never believe childishly. But at best, what a believer strives for is a trust that is fully aware of both the religious conceptualization and the worldly conceptualization of the issue at hand. The believer knows everything the unbeliever knows, and still he believes. This is because religious trust is not based upon evidence of the other’s reliability, but because the believer has already made a fundamental decision to believe. Far from being a reaction to the facts life presents one with, religious belief is a fundamental attitude towards life itself. Although faith exists within an awareness of the world, an intellectual understanding of the world is not required for faith. God has granted everyone a measure of faith, young and old, feeble and strong. What is obvious, however, is that religious faith is not perfectly compelling. Unbelievers come to faith, but believers lose their faith as well. To reject God is to reject an entire frame of reference—the substance out of which religious concepts arise. An unbeliever does not lose her understanding of religious concepts, but rather no longer is committed to them. For this reason, faith really is well understood as religious trust. The unbeliever does not forget what the meanings of religious concepts are; likewise, when I lose my trust in an individual, I do not forget what it was that I trusted about her. Instead, I simply no longer see her as trustworthy. One does a grave disservice to religious belief when one portrays it as sentimental, childish, naïve, or easy. Kierkegaard, if he shows us anything, shows us that religious trust is gruelingly difficult to establish and maintain. The difficulty with passing off religious trust as facile is that believers themselves struggle with these stumbling blocks to their faith. In beginning this work, I came across a
thesaurus that listed ‘trusting’ as a synonym for ‘childish’. I hope I have made some progress to combat the equivocation of these terms in philosophy of religion, not only with respect to religious trust, but to worldly trust as well. References Baier, Annette (1986), ‘Trust and Antitrust’, Ethics 96: 231–60. Kierkegaard, Soren (1964), Works of Love: Some Christian Reflections in the Form of Discourses, trans. Howard and Edna Hong, Harper, New York. _____ (1985), Fear and Trembling: Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de Silentio, trans. Alastair Hannay, Penguin, London. Hertzberg, Lars (1988), ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Inquiry 31: 307–22. Phillips, D. Z. (2001), ‘Ethics, Faith and “What Can Be Said”’, in Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Wittgenstein: A Critical Reader, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 348–66. _____, (2002), ‘On Trusting Intellectuals on Trust’, Philosophical Investigations 25: 33–53. Rhees, Rush (1997), ‘The Sinner and the Sin’, in D. Z. Phillips (ed.), Rush Rhees on Religion and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Sarot, Marcel (1996), ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’, Sophia 35: 101–15. Winch, Peter (1972), Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1980), Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
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Secular Trust In the previous chapter, I looked to Kierkegaard to show a conception of the Christian’s trust in God where trust is not infantile. Kierkegaard demonstrated that a religious framework which determines right and wrong for the believer can be rational; and Wittgenstein’s point about frames of reference shows that the religious framework is not an esoteric language game isolated from a non-religious perspective. The believer and the secularist are not cut off from one another. But this consideration may not alleviate the concern of philosophers who, like Annette Baier, still perceive religious trust as infantile and dangerous. Whereas Kierkegaard can show that true faith is not infantile, he has not therefore saved faith from the charge of potential danger. Also, Kierkegaard’s demonstration that Christianity can be rational does not mean that a given believer’s faith necessarily is rational. A Christian may interpret the tradition very differently than Kierkegaard does; regrettably most of them do, and we have not established, for those outside of a religious frame of reference, why we should trust Christians. Moreover, when a Christian bombs an abortion clinic in the name of God, there seems to be something very obviously irrational in that action. It is clear that Kierkegaard and the bomber do not interpret the Christian tradition in the same way; however, they are both Christians, though perhaps Kierkegaard would disagree on this point. Kierkegaard draws a sharp distinction between true and false believers, but that distinction does not help, since, on his view, one will have to be a true Christian in order to know the difference, or at the least she would have to be very familiar with the Christian framework. Furthermore, religious traditions, perhaps especially Kierkegaard’s Christianity, depict bloody and inglorious acts as sanctified by God within their holy scriptures. If it is possible for religious belief to justify murder, then we are well advised not to trust it. This concern has been brought into sharp relief here in the United States. Previously, religious wars were things of the past, or of remote areas of the world, whereas there are now many people who lack trust in religion itself, because they lack trust in religious believers, in light of recent events. In response to 9/11, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield said that ‘religion drove those planes into those buildings’ on the morning of September 11, 2001. Hirschfield would not be comforted by the Kierkegaardian remark that the terrorists were not ‘true believers’. He said: The idea that somehow that’s not Islam, so we shouldn’t worry, is … not only naïve, it’s wrong. There’s a very rich tradition which they … delved into to justify what they did. By the way, hating doing it and fighting against it ever happening again is also Islam … You don’t sterilize these traditions … what’s
Trusting Others, Trusting God really going on when we do that is … if Islam is clean and that’s not real Islam, then I don’t have to ask, ‘Where is it real Jewish?’ and Christians don’t have to ask ‘Where is it real Christian?’ And the worst thing we can do is make some kind of compact where none of us admit the blood on our hands (Hirschfield, 2002).
In ‘Demoralization, Trust and the Virtues’, Annette Baier describes terrorism as an extreme form of vice. In this article, Baier explores what virtues and vices would look like on her moral theory. She does not prescribe to the belief that the virtues must be habits of action. Rather, she labels as virtuous any attitude that makes a ‘contribution to the climate of trust within which a person lives’, and this attitude may be either customary or extraordinary for the individual who possesses it. She specifies that such an attitude is an orientation ‘to an ever present fact about our human situation, namely, our mutual vulnerability’. She therefore describes the virtues as attitudes towards ‘the thought of power and vulnerability’. The virtues control what she terms ‘the mother thought’, namely, ‘the thought of our power over each other, for good or ill’, with the goal of ‘improvement and maintenance of a climate of trust’. In addition, Baier portrays the virtuous person as one who is morally lucky, since the virtues themselves are begotten and sustained in a climate of trust. She writes, ‘We cannot expect moral virtue from the homeless and starving. Such wretched or oppressed people are not so much demoralized by their conditions of life as never moralized. Morality and moral training presupposes some degree of security of life … Demoralization is a disease of the morally fortunate’ (Baier, 2003, pp. 177–9). Since Baier centers her moral theory on the notion of trust, it is not surprising that she characterizes demoralization as a substantial loss of those virtues that engender a climate of trust. She ponders whether demoralization is the loss of some specific virtues, such as faith, hope, and love, rather than just any virtue, but proceeds to examine certain moral traits that are vital to a climate of trust: thoughtfulness and considerateness. Considerateness means consideration of what makes others vulnerable and for how one affects others, along with a willingness to modify one’s behavior ‘so as not to cause fear, hurt, annoyance, insult, or disappointment in others, particularly those who hoped for cooperation or help. If she has more power over the other than that one has over her, she will not flaunt it or use it ruthlessly for her own ends.’ Baier points to the corresponding vice, ‘deliberately hurting others or threatening to do so’, and to one of its most extreme forms: terrorism. It is in this context that she cites demoralization, or more properly, the lack of moralization, as an explanation for terrorists’ actions. Living in conditions of brutalization and desperation, the terrorist seeks to even the score against those who capitalize on his oppression. She writes, ‘pockets of security as more fortunate groups may have enjoyed must be at risk from the resentment of those outside their comfort zone’ (Baier, 2003, pp. 178–9). Baier’s account is problematic. If ‘we cannot expect moral virtue from the homeless and starving’ and we are concerned that we cannot trust them, then our options are to feed and
train them, isolate them, or annihilate them. Baier’s account does not show us which option to choose. More important, perhaps, is the fact that we do find moral virtue among the ‘homeless and starving’. Although Baier seems to realize the folly of attempting to give a positive account of an empty concept like trust, her description is still mired in instrumentalist language and it continues to suffer from some of the problems cited in previous chapters. For example, Baier cannot account for situations of ‘tough love’, where a person may use his power over another, disappointing and annoying the other, with due cause. While considerateness must mean taking into consideration the possible effects we have on others, including a sense of their vulnerabilities, it does not mean necessarily capitulating to those effects and vulnerabilities. Her theory does not account for moral correction; tough times may call for leaders to make difficult decisions that override the personal concerns of short-sighted, self-centered constituents. On the one hand, constituents may never come to understand why the leader decided as he did; on the other hand, they may come to see the broader picture, thus the error of their narrow perspectives. Sometimes, ‘power over’ is required. Perhaps Baier wants to capture such possibilities when she writes, ‘The considerate person is appropriately aware of how her attitudes and actions affect those around her’ (Baier, 2003, p. 178); however, it is certain that such situations may contribute to a climate of distrust. If constituents never see the broader picture, they will distrust their leader, and wrongly so. Baier writes, ‘I take a climate of trust to be good to the extent that persons can safely trust others, including strangers, officials, makers of machines, builders, and those who issue licenses, control airports, and so on …’ (Baier, 2003, p. 187). A scenario like this is compatible with a society based merely upon relations of reliance. Admittedly, that goes a long way, considering the alternatives: inability to rely on the makers of machines, builders, air traffic controllers, etc. But while Baier can judge whether a ‘micro-climate’ is trust-filled, she cannot account for a moral a judgment on the social system itself. As an American I may see that my ‘micro-climate’ is a ‘pocket of security’ in an otherwise insecure world (and this is generally true, in spite of September 11, a high murder rate and common-place corruption) and that US foreign policy in the Middle East has led to the oppression of others who, as a result, lack proper moralization and thus threaten my pocket of security. On Baier’s theory, I should work to change US foreign policy so as to spread trust for the reason that this may be the only way to protect my own climate of trust. What Baier leaves out is the possibility of judging that policy as simply wrong—full stop. I may protest against US foreign policy because I simply believe it is wrong to oppress others, regardless of whether or not it impinges upon my home climate. She calls for contributing to a global climate of trust (or at least to climates of trust globally) as a prudent step to my own security; thus, for Baier, a global climate of trust has utility. Baier wants to foster that ‘security of life’ which is foundational to moral training. Hobbes, too, she points out, requires that peace-seeking and the willingness to lay down one’s rights (the first and second laws of nature) are necessary prior
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to justice (the third law). Both Hobbes and Baier begin with an understanding of human beings as creatures who are naturally in a constant state of conflict with one another, and whose power is in need of restraint. While Hobbes believed that restraint was achieved through fear of political might, Baier tries to achieve that restraint through virtues of considerateness, thoughtfulness, proper pride and respect, gratitude, etc. Both Hobbes and Baier ground their ethics in the absolute value of self-interest. In contrast, Albert Camus tries to establish ‘security of life’ and an ethic based on solidarity among all human beings in a world that is devoid of grace and devoid of value. Trust without God Like Rabbi Hirschfield, Albert Camus is unwilling to commend Christianity in spite of the actions of ‘false’ Christians. Addressing a group of Dominican monks of Latour-Marbourg, Camus criticized Christian practices during the upheaval of the first half of the twentieth century. He accused Christians for practicing brutality while at the same time dissipating and rationalizing their condemnation of brutality through abstract, obscure encyclicals. Christians, he said, should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today … When a Spanish bishop blesses political executions, he ceases to be a bishop or a Christian or even a man; he is a dog just like the one who, backed by an ideology, orders that execution without doing the dirty work himself. We are still waiting, and I am waiting, for a grouping of all those who refuse to be dogs and are resolved to pay the price that must be paid so that man can be something more than a dog (Camus, 1960, p. 31).
Camus acknowledges that many Christians revile evil as he does, but Camus underscores some very anti-human elements within the tradition. Accused by many in the Church of being pessimistic, Camus responded, I was not the one to invent the misery of the human being or the terrifying formulas of divine malediction. I was not the one to shout Nemo bonus or the damnation of unbaptized children. I was not the one who said that man was incapable of saving himself by his own means and that in the depths of his degradation his only hope was in the grace of God … (Camus, 1960, p. 31)
Camus refused to sever negative portions from the Christian tradition in order to sterilize it. His condemnation of the Spanish bishop is a moral one: he is not a Christian and he is not a man. Camus’ condemnation is not meant to be factual, as if the bishop is not truly a Christian and thus Christians are off the hook; that makes as little sense as if we were to take him to mean that the bishop is not a
human being, and therefore is not morally accountable. The issue for Camus is that those who are factually Christian are also immoral. Does Camus give Christianity a fair deal or does he do the tradition an injustice by focusing only on negative elements of the tradition? According to John Loose, for example, Camus ‘ignored completely the fact that some Christians have insisted upon a radical notion of freedom that is available to men to which God has subjected himself and which he cannot transcend’ (Loose, p. 213). So, while Camus does not distinguish between true and false believers, he is able to condemn Christianity precisely because he concentrates only on those elements of Christianity which are destructive. But in advocating the positive side of Christianity, Loose commits the same type of blunder that he accuses Camus of, since there is no necessary reason for emphasizing the positive aspects of Christianity over its negative aspects, the dark side over the light, unless it is for moral considerations. Which aspect of the tradition one chooses to follow is a moral choice; but this is the rub. To call, for example, the God of the ‘Old Testament’ an unjust or monstrous God, in comparison to the God of Jesus who is just and loving, is to make a moral judgment of God. Camus tells us ‘From the moment that man submits God to moral judgment, he kills Him in his own heart’ (Camus, 1992, p. 62). I have argued previously in this work that to subject God to moral measure is to make a judgment from outside the religious perspective. So if the practice of Christianity requires believers to make moral judgments of God, then Christianity requires a nonreligious perspective. If this is true, then Christianity is radically incoherent (and likely Judaism and Islam as well). Perhaps then not only is Christianity incoherent, but religion itself. And if religion is essentially incoherent, it is essentially untrustworthy. Rush Rhees addresses the practice of choosing amidst the tradition in ‘Picking and Choosing’, where he notes that Wittgenstein was against the practice. Wittgenstein’s admonition is aimed at the attempt to demonstrate what is ‘reasonable’ in Christianity, as if one could commend Christianity by ‘purging’ the unsavory elements from it, leaving just the reasonable, acceptable parts behind. Wittgenstein rejected the idea that one could subject a religious tradition to a criterion of reasonability. ‘If you “pick and choose”, then your criterion may seem to be: what it is reasonable to attribute to God; or what it is reasonable to look on as the will of God.’ But an external standard cannot be applied. Rhees claims that Wittgenstein would have objected to someone who criticized the religion of Moloch because it included child sacrifice, because ‘you could not know what this meant to them. And you could not begin to apply the standards by which you may judge actions in the society in which we live.’ If there were a group of people today, however, who began the practice, Rhees says ‘that would be something different’ (Rhees, pp. 307–8). It may seem as if the modern child sacrifice is fair game to our criticisms when the practice is contemporary to us. In other words, what makes the worshippers of Moloch inaccessible is their historical distance. This is true, but it is not the point that Wittgenstein was trying to make. Wittgenstein also warns against picking and choosing from within the Christian tradition, and the historical point does not
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apply here. The practices of the early Christians are not more accessible to us than the practices of the early Jews, so historical distance cannot be the reason why Wittgenstein tells us not to pick and choose among the Christian traditions. I have previously argued that the religious frame of reference is never fully dissevered from the natural frame of reference. Therefore, the reason that we can criticize the modern practices of child sacrifice is that we share a natural frame of reference with those who practice it. That allows us to criticize their practices when we look in on them from the outside. If they are Christians and we are Christians, we can criticize them on religious grounds, from within. But that does not solve the problem. I am concerned with picking and choosing from within a tradition and it seems Wittgenstein agrees that such a thing would be subjecting religion to a criterion of reasonableness. Rhees mentions that Wittgenstein viewed some actions which seem prima facie reprehensible as tragic. Upon viewing a film about Germans bombing Polish villages circa 1942, Rhees says that Wittgenstein was struck by the Wagnerian soundtrack and its ability to reveal what was tragic in the bombings. His point was that the music enabled one to see the evil missions on which these pilots were engaged as something like the moves of a hero in a tragedy—moves which he makes ‘in spite of himself’, call it tragic inevitability or destruction … Not that this in any sense justified what they were doing, but when you view them in this way there is no question of what would be justified or what would not (Rhees, pp. 309–10).
I think what Wittgenstein was trying to convey is that for the German bombers, their actions were inevitable because the rationale that led to or supported those actions was inextricably deep, part of a framework which determined what is rational and what is right. As such, it cannot be dismissed by showing it to be unreasonable in light of some external measure of reasonableness. It is too deeply bound. This seems to me to be an apt description of German bombers and 9/11 terrorist alike. Rhees also comments that murder has greater religious significance than other, venial sins, and that these venial sins would have disgusted Wittgenstein in a way murder would not. Murder goes deep (Rhees, p. 311). The actions of the 9/11 terrorists were unmistakably religious actions, rooted in a frame of reference that explains and justifies them. Or are they? Other Muslims may condemn their actions from within, and it is clear that the terrorists must have picked and chosen among Islamic traditions. Rhees is skeptical about Wittgenstein’s warning not to pick and choose. He mentions that he finds it strange that the New Testament writers ‘never seem to regard one part of “the Scriptures” as more important than another’. Rhees cannot do the same himself. Writing to M. O’C. Drury, Rhees says, The difficulty you and I both feel—that we cannot think of the Old Testament scriptures as one block, and that if we place on one side the books of the prophets
and the Psalms, we have to pay attention to the lives and the deeds and the histories that the Scriptures tell of—this is still with us. No doubt one cannot separate the words of the prophets, nor the Psalms either, from the lives and the fortunes of the people. And I think some of the writings of the prophets … are very great. But when I put it like that I am already picking and choosing. Then, for the significance of the fortunes and the struggles and the catastrophes of the people, it seems to me we have to understand as best we may, and we cannot keep entirely from expressing either admiration or shock.—Obviously it is next to impossible for a twentieth century academic or professional Englishman to understand much of what was said and done by Hebrew nomads between Egypt and Canaan. But if we try to understand at all, we cannot exclude expressions of admiration and of blame. And if we do not try to understand, I do not see that we can get much from a phrase like ‘the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’ (Rhees, p. 314).
Rhees, however, is mistaken here. One cannot refrain from the judgment that one element of the tradition is admirable and another shocking. To read the scriptures or any collection of literature, one makes judgments—aesthetic, moral, etc. But that is not picking and choosing; that is merely reacting. Picking and choosing consists of opting for one part of the tradition and excluding another. That is to assume that your judgment is a measure for what is reasonable, or what is of value in scripture. To read the prophets and not the histories because the prophets are great and the histories are lowly, or to read the Gospels because they express a God of love but not the revelation because it expresses a God of vengeance, is to dissect the tradition with the blade of one’s own judgment; and that requires standing outside the tradition. Refraining from picking and choosing does not mean not reacting positively or negatively to different parts of scripture; but taking into account all parts of scripture (and one’s reactions to them) with an aim towards understanding the entire revelation of God. In contrast, picking and choosing, even if one chooses only the ‘good’ parts of the tradition, does violence to the tradition. That may translate into real violence: terrorist attacks or a compact of silence. But it is important to note that this picking and choosing leads to a deep misunderstanding of a religious tradition and of the nature of religion itself. Accepting one part of a tradition while casting aside another is like accepting the principles of addition and multiplication but denying subtraction and division. These considerations apply, I believe, to anyone trying to understand a religious tradition, whether he is a believer or an outside observer. But there is another sense in which a believer confronts her tradition and makes judgments about its various components. A believer encounters various aspects of her tradition from within her practice, as a result of the liturgical calendar or Bible study. Confronting, for example, the God of the revelation, the believer does not ask, ‘Is this the God I want to worship?’ Instead, she asks, ‘What does this tell me about my God?’ The seemingly disparate elements of the tradition are facets of the one God, the one revelation. Thus they only seem disparate from a worldly perspective
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and the believer has to make sense of them as a whole, that is, from a religious perspective. Various religious traditions will have different means of dealing with this: appeal to Church fathers, appeal to creeds, appeal to clergy, etc. Yes, some religious practitioners may want to deny entire parts of scripture; but they commit a religious error in doing so. Others will seek an understanding of the whole. But while this means that religion is not necessarily incoherent, it does not imply that religion is, therefore, trustworthy, since coming to understand the tradition as a whole is a matter of interpretation. Camus’ criticism of Christianity focuses not on the tradition so much as on its practitioners. Camus is no stranger to the tradition (no pun intended). He recognizes the promise of Christianity, its ‘moment of rebellion’, but what he is concerned with is the question of whether he can trust Christians; not merely ordinary lay persons, but bishops who sanction executions. Camus, like the philosopher of religion, cannot pick and choose without misrepresenting the tradition. But that does not mean that we can dismiss his criticisms of Christians out of hand. However, Camus does reject religion outright as a result of two philosophical, not moral, points. In The Myth of Sisyphus he rejects religion because it necessitates that we give up our rationality, the only tool that humans trust; in The Rebel, he states that any absolute (notably Christianity and communism) can justify murder. I want to look more closely at these criticisms. Since Camus also criticizes Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, I will begin by examining Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. In his attack on proofs in religion in Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard identifies God with the Unknown. ‘Let us call this unknown something: God. It is nothing more than a name we assign to it’ (Kierkegaard, pp. 31f.). Reason reaches a limit in the Unknown, which, he says, exists and does not exist. Reason preoccupies itself with this limit, which is ‘precisely a torment for passion, though it also serves as an incitement’. Reason does not simply dismiss the Unknown, as Kierkegaard tells us, ‘It will not serve to dismiss its relation to it simply by asserting that the Unknown does not exist, since this itself involves a relationship. But what then is the Unknown; since the designation of it as God merely signifies for us that it is unknown?’ Dismissing the Unknown requires some knowledge of it, and this is not to be had. The Unknown is wholly other and dynamic, yet Reason is unable to interpret it this way and imposes on it the static concept of ‘the different.’ The Unknown has no ‘distinguishing mark’, nothing by which we can know it. In attempting to know what we cannot know, we tend to think of the Unknown as something superior to ourselves. When conceived of as the different, the Unknown becomes ‘many ideas of many differences’. For Kierkegaard, the Unknown so conceived is paganism: The Unknown is then in a condition of dispersion, and the Reason may choose at pleasure from what is at hand and the imagination may suggest (the monstrous, the ludicrous, etc.).
But it is impossible to hold fast to a difference of this nature. Every time this is done it is essentially an arbitrary act, and deepest down in the heart of piety lurks the mad caprice which knows that it has itself produced its God. If no specific determination of difference can be held fast, because there is no distinguishing mark, like and unlike finally become identified with one another, thus sharing the fate of all such dialectical opposites. The unlikeness clings to the Reason and confounds it, so that the Reason no longer knows itself and quite consistently confuses itself with the unlikeness (Kierkegaard, pp. 178–9).
Kierkegaard suggests instead that the proper understanding of the Unknown is not as ‘the different’, for it is also possible to conceive of the Unknown in likeness. This, however, requires that Reason not reduce the Unknown to that which is unlike Reason itself. He writes, As for the last-named supposition, the self-irony of Reason, I shall attempt to delineate it … There lives an individual whose appearance is precisely like that of other men; he grows up to manhood like others, he marries, he has an occupation … This man is also God. How do I know? I cannot know it, for in order to know it I would have to know God, and the nature of the difference between God and man; and this I cannot know because the Reason has reduced it to likeness with that from which it was unlike. Thus God becomes the most terrible of deceivers, because the Reason has deceived itself (Kierkegaard, p. 179).
Kierkegaard, famously, declares that Reason, must ‘let go of proof’ in order to know the Unknown. The Unknown appears to us as a paradox when approached through objective Reason. In a leap of faith, one can grasp the Unknown and expect the impossible. Kierkegaard’s study of the moment of the leap of faith is an elucidation of the moment at which one passionately grabs onto the religious frame of reference. I want to say it describes the space in which the leap takes place as well as the moment. It shows the depth at which this commitment takes place—the deep nature of religious trust. Camus describes a similar moment/space. At the point in which Kierkegaard wants to leap, Camus refuses, preferring to live in the tension. Disparaging Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, Camus commends him for his apprehension of the absurd but criticizes his response. Kierkegaard’s leap towards God, according to Camus, is a desperate attempt to cling to some metaphysical assurance that the world has meaning, and thus is an ultimate inability to face the absurd. In opting for faith, Kierkegaard rejects rationality and instead embraces The ‘moments’ that Kierkegaard and Camus describe are not the same moments. Kierkegaard is describing a moment of tension that occurs when a person who lives by absolute moral value is confronted with her own sense of sin, in a crucial moment of decision, leaps to the (unknown) religious sphere. In contrast, Camus is describing a tension that is the human condition itself. It is a description, therefore, of the condition of every human being at all times. Camus seems not to notice this difference.
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the irrational as an object of worship; this rejection is at the same time the rejection of the human: ‘The sacrifice of the intellect’ (Camus, 1991, p. 37). He describes, therefore, a situation in which one, amidst the tension of the absurd, does not leap but chooses to live in the tension. Whereas Kierkegaard describes the feeling associated with the moment before the leap as dread (attraction and repulsion), Camus describes his feeling in terms of anger and scorn. He believes that Kierkegaard gives up when he leaps into the irrational—he gives into the longing for nostalgia and meaning by assenting to the very entity that is responsible for the human condition in which we seek meaning in a meaningless universe. Refusing to bow down to the irrational God, Camus avows to trust only in his Reason. Kierkegaard, Camus writes, Substitutes for his cry of revolt a frantic adherence, at once he is led to blind himself to the absurd which hitherto enlightened him and to deify the only certainty he henceforth possesses, the irrational. The important thing … is not to be cured, but to live with one’s ailments. Kierkegaard wants to be cured. … The entire effort of his intelligence is to escape the antinomy of the human condition … he gives the irrational the appearance and God the attributes of the absurd: unjust, incoherent, and incomprehensible. Intelligence alone in him strives to stifle the underlying demands of the human heart. Since nothing is proved, everything can be proved (Camus, 1991, pp. 39–40).
Kierkegaard glimpses the transcendent and concludes that it must be therefore worthy of worship. But Camus insists that Kierkegaard’s conclusion is not logical. Worship is not the only possible response to what Reason cannot know and Kierkegaard cannot provide any grounds for choosing to take his leap. There is no logical certainty in dealing with the Unknown. ‘All I can say is that, in fact, that transcends my scale.’ He believes that it does not make sense to ground one’s existence in something that is beyond all knowledge. Instead, he writes, ‘I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with that alone.’ It is beneficial to recognize what the limits of human Reason are, but in doing so, Camus advocates a ‘middle path where intelligence can remain clear’ (Camus, 1991, p. 40). The absurd is the common state of humankind; that that is so is discovered by Reason. Camus refuses to give up the Reason that got him thus far, and therefore repudiates Kierkegaard’s embrace of the Unknown. Human beings long for, demand, a world of meaning; but the world does not respond. The world is not rational. It merely exists. Camus is unwilling to call this irrational world God, or to endorse its cold silence. Being the Unknown, it is not clear whether one should abandon or accept it, but its utter disregard for the human condition leads Camus to rebel against it. This clash between the human call for meaning and the silent response of a world without meaning brings about the feeling of the absurd. This drama, as Camus would have it, is played out by three characters: human desire for meaning (nostalgia), the irrational world, and the feeling of the absurd. This drama is the
human condition. As such, to deny the drama or any of its principle players is to deny humanity. My reasoning wants to be faithful to the evidence that aroused it. That evidence is the absurd. It is that divorce between the mind that desires and the world that disappoints, my nostalgia for unity, this fragmented universe and the contradiction that binds them together. Kierkegaard suppresses my nostalgia … That is not what I was expecting. It was a matter of living and thinking with those dislocations, or knowing whether one had to accept or refuse. There can be no question of masking the evidence, of suppressing the absurd by denying one of the terms of its equation. It is essential to know whether one can live with it or whether, on the other hand, logic commands one to die of it. I am not interested in philosophical suicide, but rather in plain suicide (Camus, 1991, p. 50).
Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus explores the possibility of suicide, but ultimately Camus does not commend it. To kill oneself is to submit to the absurd, ‘to deny one of the terms of its equation’. The way of living Camus commends is that of revolt: being conscious of the absurd while at the same time rebelling against it. Since rationality uniquely belongs to humanity and it is by rationality that an individual comes to know the absurd, Camus states that Kierkegaard was wrong to reject it. Rationality is required for human beings to live by truth. Sisyphus is Camus’ hero because Sisyphus sees the situation he is in with clarity. He does not deny any of the principle players in his situation, nor does he abandon his rational mind in a desperate act of hope. If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn (Camus, 1991, p. 121).
Camus rejects religious trust because he sees that trust as an act of desperate escapism designed to placate the mind and distract it from the truth. Camus insists that the absurd man live in the truth of the absurdity of his situation, and as it was his Reason that showed him this truth, Camus reserves his trust for Reason itself. Like Descartes, Camus attempts to identify the beginning of his knowledge—a rock of certainty. He finds that beginning in the absurd. He trusts the vehicle that got him there—his reason. From this beginning, he then sees, like Descartes, what sense he can make of the world.
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What, in fact, is the absurd man? He who, without negating it, does nothing for the eternal. Not that nostalgia is foreign to him. But he prefers his courage and his reasoning. The first teaches him to live without appeal and to get along with what he has; the second informs him of his limits (Camus, 1991, p. 66).
Camus’ interest in the absurdity of the human condition is informed by a deep concern for morality. In The Myth of Sisyphus he rejected the idea of God, because like the absurd, God is unjust, incoherent, and incomprehensible. I am interested in finding out what trust comes to for Camus, what trust looks like when one refuses to make a leap to the irrational, when one refuses to place one’s trust in God. Camus is describing a situation in which one must constantly remain aware of what one trusts so that one will not fall into the trap of trusting what is not worthy of trust. He does not pretend that such diligence is easy. What he does trust is that power of reason which allows him to see the absurd nature of the human condition: Thus, like everything else, the absurd ends with death. But there can be no absurd outside this world either. And it is by this elementary criterion that I judge the notion of the absurd to be essential and consider that it can stand as the first of my truths. The rules of method alluded to above appears here. If I judge that a thing is true, I must preserve it. If I attempt to solve a problem, at least I must not by that very solution conjure away one of the terms of the problem. For me the sole datum is the absurd. The first and, after all, the only condition of my inquiry is to preserve the very thing that crushes me, consequently to respect what I consider essential in it. I have just defined it as a confrontation and an unceasing struggle (Camus, 1991, p. 31).
Rebellion In The Rebel, Camus is concerned with the possibility of murder. A world which offers no meaning and no objective value is a world where anything is permissible. Now Camus has come to suspect that Reason itself cannot be trusted, as mass murder is rationally justified. ‘It is only today that Cain is killing Abel in the name of logic.’ Camus comes to realize that he has not provided an ethic for the Absurd Man. ‘If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance … Evil and virtue are mere chance or caprice (Camus, 1992, p. 5).’ ‘One is free’, therefore, ‘to stoke the crematory fires.’ Camus must provide a foundation for an ethic, since we are left without values and everything is permitted, including murder. This foundation must reside in Albert Camus, ‘The Artist as Witness of Freedom’, as cited in Harold A. Durfee (1958), ‘Albert Camus and the Ethics of Rebellion’, The Journal of Religion 38: 29–45.
the very concept of the absurd. Analyzing the absurd, he states, ‘it is obvious that absurdism hereby admits that human life is the only necessary good since it is precisely life that makes this encounter possible and since, without life, the absurdist wager would have no basis’. Camus repeatedly stresses that one must live in the absurd, the moment of tension, because one only lives authentically in that tension. But Reason cannot choose death, since to do so would create conditions where one is no longer able to exist in the tension; for the absurd to advocate death would be self-defeating. Camus concludes further that ‘From the moment that life is recognized as good, it becomes good for all men. Murder cannot be made coherent when suicide is not considered coherent’ (Camus, 1992, p. 6). The universal experience of absurdity is the common human condition. So the message of The Rebel is that whenever a person revolts against the injustice of an irrational world, one opts for the value of justice. When one revolts against the oppression of the universe, one opts for the value of freedom. In the act of rebelling, a human being at once sees that the very condition that she rebels against (the irrational silence of an unjust world) is a condition which she shares with every other human being; it is the human condition and is a basis for human nature and human values. Because any absolute position can be used to condone murder, the rebel must always fight for justice not for the sake of some absolute cause, but always for the sake of humanity. Contra Sartre, Camus argues that values precede actions. ‘Analysis of rebellion leads at least to the suspicion that, contrary to the postulates of contemporary thought, a human nature does exist, as the Greeks believed. Why rebel if there is nothing permanent in oneself worth preserving?’ (Camus, 1992, p. 16). The act of rebellion, therefore, ‘denies individualism in the name of the “common good”. It is an affirmation of values which are in some sense universal and for which a man is willing to risk himself … The act is itself an identification with humanity’ (Durfee, p. 32). But while rebellion points to a common human condition, this condition is not always perceptible to humankind. ‘Rebellion is the act of an educated man who is aware of his own rights.’ Camus adds that ‘in a world where things are held sacred the problem of rebellion does not arise’; however, the Western world has given up the idea of a sacred world. He writes, ‘The rebel is a man who is on the point of accepting or rejecting the sacred and determined on laying a claim to a human situation in which all the answers are human—in other words, formulated in reasonable terms.’ Camus describes the rebel’s decision as a choice between two worlds; we might say ‘two frames of reference’; ‘only two possible worlds can exist for the human mind: the sacred … and the world of rebellion. The disappearance of one is equivalent to the appearance of the other’ (Camus, 1992, p. 21). Camus has thus again established his trust in reason, although discernment is necessary so that one avoids misplacing her trust in something untrustworthy, such as nationalism or religion. All the answers are formulated in terms of Reason because Reason is uniquely human. ‘The irrational claim for freedom paradoxically adopts reason as a weapon, and as the only means of conquest which appears entirely human
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(Camus, 1992, p. 103). Murderous regimes can rationalize their actions, but a deeper analysis of the human condition negates the possibility of murder. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus rejected religion as an act of cowardice, of giving in to the Unknown, in opposition to Kierkegaard, who describes the leap of faith as an act requiring courage. In The Rebel, Camus does not attack religion in the same way, but understands that Western civilization can no longer see the world in religious terms and that the history of Western civilization proves that religion can be as tyrannous as any despotic regime. But rather than raising an angry fist at the Unknown God, the rebel’s interest is no longer her individual angst and anger at God. Camus writes, ‘The rebel thus rejects divinity in order to share in the struggles and destiny of all men’ (Camus, 1992, p. 306). The rebel is not interested in participating in the tyranny of a religious Absolute, dividing humanity into ‘the saved’ and ‘the damned’, ‘true believers’ and ‘heretics’. Now, the interest is in her fellow human beings. Camus even notes that the beginning of Christianity was an act of rebellion, but ‘the resurrection of Christ and the annunciation of the kingdom of heaven interpreted as a promise of eternal life are the answers that render it futile’. Still, he writes, ‘the history of metaphysical rebellion cannot be confused with atheism’ (Camus, 1992, pp. 21–5). Christianity’s act of rebellion is the worship of the God who suffers. ‘For God to be a man, he must despair.’ He writes, Only the most abject suffering by God could assuage man’s agony. If everything, without exception, in heaven and earth is doomed to pain and suffering, then a strange form of happiness is possible. But from the moment when Christianity, emerging from its period of triumph, found itself submitted to the critical eye of reason—to the point where the divinity of Christ was denied—suffering once more became the lot of man (Camus, 1992, pp. 32–4).
Without religion to ground morals, Camus must establish an ethic that can serve as a guide for Reason. He is able to locate that moral basis in Rebellion itself while avoiding advocating bloody revolution. He writes that ‘man’s solidarity is founded upon rebellion, and rebellion, in its turn, can only find its justification in this solidarity … any rebellion which claims the right to deny or destroy this solidarity loses simultaneously its right to be called rebellion and becomes in reality an acquiescence in murder’ (Camus, 1992, p. 22). Harold A. Durfee notes that this is the ‘one provision … which will serve as a criterion for true values when they are found … any act or proposal which tends to destroy this solidarity is really an “accomplice to murder”’ (Durfee, p. 33). Again, morality is grounded in the experience of what is common to humanity, the common human experience, which gives rise, Camus suggests, to common values. The ‘first step’ is to realize that the experience of the absurd is shared by all human beings. Camus writes, ‘If men cannot refer to a common value, recognized by all as existing in each one, then man is incomprehensible to man’ (Camus, 1992, pp. 22–3). Camus, like Kierkegaard, finds the basis for love and trust in the commonality that human beings share. Camus’ rebel has driven God out of heaven, but without
God, human beings are accountable for history; thus, all is not permitted. The rebel sets limits that uphold common human values. ‘The rebel thus concludes that the affirmation of a common humanity implicit in the very act of rebellion is always a value … This value exists now and is the basis of our protest against evil.’ Durfee explains, ‘Injustice is not evil due to a negation of some eternal ideal of justice but rather because it breaks community and thereby destroys the very possibility of authentic existence.’ Camus, like Hobbes and Baier, describes injustice in terms of breaking community, of breaking trust. Unlike Hobbes, however, Camus limits the power of sovereigns since he does not advocate absolute, unlimited power. Durfee describe Camus’ ethic in terms more similar to Baier’s than to Hobbes’: Rebellion is a recognition of the positive value of creative freedom and also a recognition of the limits of this freedom. The recognition of this limit is the recognition that the other is also properly a rebel. Freedom is therefore relative. Absolute freedom is authoritarian power (Durfee, p. 36).
Camus’ rebel is unable to rest easy in either God or human history, but is forced to live and shape history according to the value of human life. For Camus, this means that the rebel is ready to sacrifice herself in the name of justice. ‘This insane generosity is the generosity of rebellion, which unhesitatingly gives the strength of its love and without a moment’s delay refuses injustice. Its merit lies in making no calculations, distributing everything it possesses to life and to living men … Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.’ Camus calls this ‘a strange form of love’ (Camus, 1992, p. 304). Humankind rebels against injustice by creating justice through sacrifice. There are interesting parallels between Camus’ thought and that of Thomas Hobbes. Fred R. Dallmayr highlights some of the similarities between these two thinkers in his article, ‘Hobbes and Existentialism: Some Affinities’. Camus sought an ethic grounded in human nature that is perceived when one becomes aware that the human condition of living in an absurd universe is shared. Camus believes that this perception engenders a sense of compassion for others. Hobbes, like Camus, finds a foundation for his ethics in human nature, though the two thinkers have very different conceptions of that nature. Camus implies that human beings are naturally compassionate; in Hobbes’ state of nature, however, individuals are in constant conflict with one another. Interestingly, each author portrays the natural state of humankind as one of constant strife: for Hobbes, it is man against man; for Camus it is man against his predicament. Both appeal to Reason as a guide for creating harmony and securing life. Camus describes an irrational world populated with human beings who long for meaning; the only possibilities are absolute acceptance sanctioning the absurdity, or absolute negation sanctioning death. Neither is acceptable, according to Camus, because both possibilities ‘fight against their own premises’. Hobbes, like Camus, describes human existence as a ‘brute fact’. Although Hobbes upholds belief in God, he insists that God ‘owes man no explanation’, and advocates a careful balance between pleasing God and
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pleasing the government. Both authors affirm that life is a value. For Hobbes, self-preservation is the first law of nature; whereas Camus simply argues that human beings deserve to live. Human life is the only absolute value (Dallmayr, pp. 625–30). Camus and Hobbes both portray the human condition as a tension which seeks resolution. For Hobbes, that tension is created by two opposing facts: first, that nature has no regard for ‘human standards’ and second, that man is a part of nature. Man must live with others, but his own aims bring him into conflict with others. The tension Camus describes, as we have seen, is the tension of absurdity: the universe (be it God or nature) is irrational, yet man seeks meaning. The tension described in Leviathan yields an ethic of prudent self-interest. In The Rebel, the tension experienced when one faces the absurd yields the possibility of an ethic based on the primacy of human life that does not put self-interest ahead of the interests of others, but in fact requires self-sacrifice in the name of justice. A major difference between their philosophies, at this point, is that for Hobbes, others are obstacles to the individual’s quest for self-preservation and the tension is alleviated, though not eradicated, by the creation of a sovereign state; for Camus, man must live with others, but there is solidarity among men and human beings need each other in order to secure peace and promote life. Civil life is made possible by this solidarity, but human beings dictate political life rather than abide by it on Camus’ theory (Dallmayr, pp. 627–30). Both Hobbes and Camus require Reason in order to cultivate civil society. Hobbes maintains that Reason, along with natural inclination, ensures the state. Reason leads human beings to see that they must give up their rights and abide by the laws of nature in order to secure their own peace. Rational awareness of the social covenant generates moral obligations. On Camus’ system, Reason is needed to explore the implications of the Absurd; Reason can be led astray, so due diligence is necessary. Camus’ rebel is an educated person; this is on two levels. First, a person must exist in a society that has reached a requisite degree of selfconsciousness and second, education is necessary in order for human beings to utilize their capacity to Reason in a responsible and diligent manner. For the rebel, the basis of civil cohesion is the universal nature of our predicament. For Hobbes, cohesion is not guaranteed by an understanding of human nature; thus individuals must lay down their rights and invest total power and authority in their sovereign. Trust is required for this to happen, but this trust is motivated by self-interest. Also necessary is the individual’s natural inclination to fear sanctions lest she disobey the sovereign leader (Dallmayr, p. 634). For the rebel, political power is not necessary to secure civility, only the consensus of values achieved and understanding of common human nature. Camus, thus, tries to establish civil cohesion on rationality alone. As Dallmayr notes, Camus’ theory seems ‘disengaged from concrete motivation and impervious to human frailty’ (Dallmayr, p. 635). There have been many critics of Camus’ moral theory, notably Sartre, as Camus departed from existentialism with The Rebel. Durfee mentions that Camus
fails to justify the initial ‘secular rebellion’ that has led to the abandonment of the world of grace. He writes, ‘this is not to be done merely by the recognition of evil in history, which must be acknowledged, for many would recognize this who would by no means justify a turn to a secular world of man-made justice’. Durfee also finds Camus’ dismissal of religion as ‘naïve acceptance’ to be problematic and suggests that ‘reflective’ religious men and women are in ‘constant struggle and warfare with God to reconcile the apparent contradictions’ of human existence, the exemplar of this stance being Job (Durfee, pp. 39–40). Given that a rebellious religious perspective is possible, Camus provides no reason why a person should opt for the secular. This is crucial, Durfee believes, especially since there is no guarantee that human beings can save the world from evil. Camus expects that human reason and creativity are enough to create justice in the world. That this is true remains to be proven. Durfee also points out that Camus seems to derive the ‘ought’ of absolute value from the ‘is’ of human existence, without giving any clear indication of how this is to be done (Durfee, p. 42). We saw in earlier chapters that Baier, Winch, and Herzberg tried to derive a moral basis from a natural fact about human existence, namely, the cooperation and trust necessary for speaking a language. Certain things do follow from our general concept of a human being; for instance that they have hopes and fears, that they have an inner life, etc., but these are not essentially moral in character. Camus assumes the recognition that we share a common human experience gives rise to compassion for others. The one who lives in the absurd, refusing to bow down to religion or the state and refusing to slip into wallowing despair, is one who stands up for others, who intercedes on behalf of human beings and human rights. But here Camus reveals trust, not only in human reason, but also in human compassion and courage. However, the realization of a common human predicament does not necessitate a response of compassion. Disgust and despair, for example, are also possible. In addition, Camus cannot guarantee that individuals will be immune to the ‘soul-blindness’ of slave owners as described by Raimond Gaita in Chapter 4. Although Camus calls for education and self-consciousness, it is clear that many slave owners were highly educated people. Camus cannot guarantee that they will see their slaves as participating in a common human condition. As Durfee writes, ‘the mere fact of our common humanity and common struggle would seem to be recognized as a good. Why this is so is not clear. Why the mere existence of humanity, even though one’s fate is tied up with it, demands that value be recognized rather than mere existence remains obscure’ (Durfee, p. 43). Camus also does not seem to consider that the absurd individual may live immorally or may not live at all (without committing suicide). While Camus’ rebel is courageous and motivated to political activism, recognition of the absurdity of human existence, for the individual and perhaps, even more so, the recognition that humanity itself is in this absurd predicament, can lead to a very different reaction. For example, Imre Kertész’s Kaddish for a Child Not Born tells the story of a holocaust survivor, who, on the surface appears to live like a normal individual,
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but for whom, on a deep level, life is a death camp: the ethic of the death camp is the ethic of the world. Aware of the ‘stifling sky’, as Camus would say, Kertész’s character does not react with anger. Anger is a motivating force. Instead, he is simply doing his time, waiting for death, for the end of the absurd. True, he does not give in to religious fervor; but neither does he become an activist. He simply bides his time, going through the motions of living, waiting for his sentence to end. That he understands life to be absurd is witnessed in the following speech: ‘Auschwitz cannot be explained’ … By way of that wretched sentence … is the wretched author explaining that we should be silent concerning Auschwitz, that Auschwitz doesn’t really exist, or rather, that it didn’t, for the only facts that cannot be explained are those that don’t or didn’t exist … Auschwitz did exist, or rather, does exist, and can, therefore, be explained; what could not be explained is that no Auschwitz ever existed, that is to say, one can’t find an explanation for the possibility that Auschwitz didn’t exist, hadn’t occurred, that the state of facts labeled Auschwitz hadn’t been a materialization of a Weltgeist, yes, indeed, it is precisely the absence of Auschwitz that could not be explained (Kertész, pp. 26–8). What is really irrational and what truly cannot be explained is not evil but, contrarily, the good (Kertész, p. 32).
The narrator relates a story about an incident at Auschwitz: he was sick and laid out on a cart ready to be transported to the camp hospital. A character known as the ‘Professor’ is put in charge of his food ration. The narrator is acutely aware of how much his survival depends upon getting his ration, and how the Professor’s chances are increased if the Professor’s portion is doubled. Losing sight of the Professor, he assumes the Professor has taken the ration for himself, but, to his surprise, the Professor reappears with the ration and quickly feeds the sick man. In doing so, the Professor risks his own life since he is not allowed to be where he is. The narrator is haunted by the question of why the Professor gave up his ‘double chance’ at survival and risked his life in order to bring a sick man his food ration. He suggests that the Professor could not have genuinely survived if he had kept the ration, that he could not have lived with himself. ‘I believe there is no explanation for this because it is not rational, not in comparison with the concrete rationality of the daily food ration.’ The narrator grounds the Professor’s act in Freedom: ‘the “Professor” did not do what he had to do, what, in other words, he should have done according to the rational demands of hunger, the instinct for survival, and the madness and the governing rules of the blood pact of hunger, survival, instinct, and madness. He didn’t do what he had to do but did something else in spite of everything.’ The narrator resists his wife’s explanation of the Professor’s actions as ‘natural’ (Kertész, pp. 32–7). It would have been natural to eat both rations. While the narrator’s understanding of the Professor’s act is similar to Simone Weil’s discussion of a supernatural virtue, the narrator is not a
passionate religious believer. While he prays to God for death, it is clear that he does latch on to religious belief in order to assuage his suffering or to explain away his experiences. Alienated from any sense of belonging, he tells the reader: I don’t consider it inconceivable—or for that matter conceivable—that there could be another world, a hereafter; only that if it does exist, it’s certain that it doesn’t exist for me because I am here. That is to say, barely here. I live only halfway and that overwhelms me with an ephemeral sense of guilt. At times like this I often tried, try, to sober up, so to say, but all is in vain; I’m afraid I can only enter a relationship with life in the form of some sort of logical game, just as one plays chess or does calculations on paper, and in some ineffable way some kind of reality emerges from the abstract results (Kertész, p. 49).
Kertész’s narrator is unable to appeal to God to alleviate his suffering because he suffers in this world. This world, however, is a world in which Auschwitz finds its natural home. The narrator is horrified by his discovery that the ethic of the world is the ethic of the camps. ‘Auschwitz … struck me later as simply an elaboration of those virtues in which I have been indoctrinated since childhood … that inexcusable process of breaking my spirit, my incessant urge for survival’ (Kertész, p. 88). Our world, the natural home of Auschwitz is reliable, it is the world of ‘the concrete rationality’ of survival; but a deeper form of trust is not possible. Thus the narrator is unable to keep his marriage together and unable to bring a child into this world. The narrator is aware of the absurdity of life but understands compassion and genuine caring to be unnatural. But unlike Camus’ rebel, the situation does not provide a motivating force for social and political activism. Camus stated that courage is necessary for living in the absurd. The narrator of Kaddish for a Child Not Born does not have the courage to live a life of rebellion. He concludes, During those years I also discovered the true nature of my work, which, essentially, is nothing else but digging, continued and continuous digging of the grave others had started for me in the clouds, the wind, in nothingness … In those years I recognized my life for what it was … the spiritual form of a survival instinct that no longer can survive, doesn’t want to survive, and probably is no longer capable of survival, but one that still and because of it all demands its own, that is to say … so that it could continue to exist, no matter why, no matter for whom … (Kertész, p. 94)
Durfee notes that sustaining Camus’ rebellion requires ‘sheer determination’. ‘The power to do this,’ he continues, ‘is evidently lodged within the self, although Camus presents no evidence in support of this ability … It remains a question … as to whether humanity by itself has such power of self-sacrifice and whether the foundation of these values is strong enough to bear the weight it is forced to carry’ (Durfee, p. 44). In the example provided by Kaddish for a Child Not Born, we see
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someone who does not have the determination to rebel, yet continues to live in the tension of an absurd world because life is demanded of him. If the world were not reliable, madness would result; but a world without the capacity for deep relations of trust results in despair. Camus’ attempt to locate a basis for morality in a common human experience or nature fails. While he is able to avoid the problems created by moral theories dependent upon self-interest and the utility of trust, he cannot ensure human security by a mere recognition of a common human nature. Kierkegaard was able to establish a deep sense of trust in others founded on the absolute value of love itself. Not everyone, however, feels compelled to make the leap of faith required for one to experience that love and to see others unconditionally as neighbors. Camus, in trying to establish justice based on human equality, cannot appeal to an external absolute value. Rebellion must find its values within itself. Human life has absolute value, he claims, but he cannot show why this is so and he cannot compel others to adhere to that value. Camus believes that Reason alone is enough to elicit active compassion towards others, but his optimism is unwarranted. Rebellion is not the only possible response to the absurd. As Kierkegaard notes, whether one responds to the facts of life in love or in hatred depends upon an attitude prior to Reason. Reasonable people commit political executions, acts of terror, and torture. Compassionate people do not. It is the goal of philosophy to describe and make clear our lives. In this work I have tried to describe our trust in one another and in God, and to eliminate some of the obscurity created by various philosophical treatments of trust. I have not tried to advocate a particular ethic, a particular version of morality, or a particular definition of trust. Readers looking for a justification of trust or a foundation for moral behavior will likely be disappointed, although I suggest that these readers should take Camus’ plea into consideration: ‘We are still waiting, and I am waiting, for a grouping of all those who refuse to be dogs and are resolved to pay the price that must be paid so that man can be something more than a dog’ (Camus, 1960, p. 31). Such a grouping, however, cannot be a mere grouping of rational people or of self-interested people. It must be a grouping of compassionate people bound by a common value of fellowship and love. References Baier, Annette C. (2003), ‘Demoralization, Trust, and the Virtues’, in Cheshire Calhoun (ed.) Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers, Oxford University Press, New York. Camus, Albert (1960), ‘The Unbeliever and Christians’, in Jaroslav Pelikan (ed.) (1990), The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought, Little, Brown and Company, Boston. _____ (1991), The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien, Vintage International, New York.
_____ (1992), The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, trans. Anthony Bower, Vintage International, New York. Dallmayr, Fred R. (1969), ‘Hobbes and Existentialism: Some Affinities’, The Journal of Politics 31: 615–40. Durfee, Harold A. (1958), ‘Albert Camus and the Ethics of Rebellion’, The Journal of Religion 38: 29–45. Hirshfield, Brad (2002), interview in Helen Whitney, producer, ‘Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero’, aired September 3, 2002, PBS Video, Melbourne, Florida. Kertész, Imre (1992), Kaddish for a Child Not Born, trans. Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois. Kierkegaard, Soren (1967), Philosophical Fragments, trans. Howard V. Hong, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. Loose, John (1962), ‘The Christian as Camus’s Absurd Man’, The Journal of Religion 42: 203–14. Rhees, Rush (1997), ‘Picking and Choosing’, in D. Z. Phillips (ed.), Rush Rhees on Religion and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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Bibliography Baier, Annette (1986), ‘Trust and Antitrust’, Ethics 96: 231–60. _____ (1994), Moral Prejudices, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. _____ (1997), ‘Response to Olli Lagerspetz’, in Lilli Alanen, Sara Heināmaa and Thomas Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity, St. Martin’s Press, New York. _____ (2003), ‘Demoralization, Trust, and the Virtues’, in Cheshire Calhoun (ed.), Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers, Oxford University Press, New York. Camus, Albert (1960), ‘The Unbeliever and Christians’, in Jaroslav Pelikan (ed. 1990), The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought, Little, Brown and Company, Boston. _____ (1991), The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien, Vintage International, New York. _____ (1992), The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, trans. Anthony Bower, Vintage International, New York. Colette (1986), ‘The Other Wife’, in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), The World of the Short Story: a 20th Century Collection, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, pp. 19–21. Dallmayr, Fred R. (1969), ‘Hobbes and Existentialism: Some Affinities’, The Journal of Politics 31: 615–40. Durfee, Harold A. (1958), ‘Albert Camus and the Ethics of Rebellion’, The Journal of Religion 38: 29–45). Edelman, John (1990), An Audience for Moral Philosophy?, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Foot, Phillipa (1978), ‘Moral Beliefs’, in Virtues and Vices, Blackwell, Oxford. Gaita, Raimond (1994), ‘Critical Notice of Interventions in Ethics by D. Z. Phillips’, Philosophical Investigations 17: 613–28. Geach, Peter (1969), ‘The Moral Law and the Law of God’, in God and the Soul, Schocken Books, New York. Hertzberg, Lars (1988), ‘On the Attitude of Trust’, Inquiry 31: 307–22. Hirshfield, Brad (2002), interview in Helen Whitney, producer, ‘Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero’, aired 3 September 2002, PBS Video, Melbourne, Florida. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (1651), edited and with introduction by C. B. MacPherson (1981), Penguin, New York. Holland, R. F. (1980), ‘Is Goodness a Mystery?’, in Against Empiricism: On Education, Epistemology and Value, Barnes & Noble, Totowa, New Jersey. Hollis, Martin (1998), Trust within Reason, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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Kertész, Imre (1992), Kaddish for a Child Not Born, trans. Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois. Kierkegaard, Soren (1964), Works of Love: Some Christian Reflections in the Form of Discourses, trans. Howard and Edna Hong, Harper, New York. _____ (1967), Philosophical Fragments, trans. Howard Hong, Princeton University Press, Princeton. _____ (1985), Fear and Trembling: Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de Silentio, trans. Alastair Hannay, Penguin, London. Lagerspetz, Olli (1992), ‘Legitimacy and Trust’, Philosophical Investigations 15: 1–21. _____ (1997), ‘The Notion of Trust in Philosophical Psychology’, in Lilli Alanen, Sara Heināmaa and Thomas Wallgren (eds.), Commonality and Particularity, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Loose, John (1962), ‘The Christian as Camus’s Absurd Man’, The Journal of Religion 42: 203–14. Phillips, D. Z. (1970), Death and Immortality, Macmillan, Glasgow. _____ (1992), Interventions in Ethics, State University of New York Press, Albany. _____ (2001), ‘Ethics, Faith and ‘What Can Be Said’’, in Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Wittgenstein: A Critical Reader, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 348–66. _____ (2002), ‘On Trusting Intellectuals on Trust’, Philosophical Investigations 25: 33–53. Plato (1989), Gorgias, trans. W. D. Woodhead, in Hamilton, Edith and Huntington Cairns (eds.), Plato: The Collected Dialogues including the Letters, Princeton University Press, Princeton. _____ (1989), Republic, trans. Paul Shorey, in Hamilton, Edith and Huntington Cairns, (eds.), Plato: The Collected Dialogues including the Letters, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Rhees, Rush (1997), Rush Rhees on Religion and Philosophy, D. Z. Phillips (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Sarot, Marcel (1996), ‘Why Trusting God Differs from All Other Forms of Trust’, Sophia 35: 101–15. Steinbeck, John (1937), Of Mice and Men, Penguin Books, New York. Winch, Peter (1972), Ethics and Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. _____ (1987), Trying to Make Sense, Basil Blackwell, Oxford. _____ (1989), Simone Weil: the Just Balance, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1973), Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed., trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Macmillan, New York. _____ (1980), Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. _____ (1991), On Certainty, trans. and ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and George Henrik von Wright, Harper, New York.
Abraham, 83–4, 115–18, 131, 149 absurd, the, 117–18, 125, 151–63 adultery, 15, 34–5 Aristotle, 44, 107 attitude, 27, 29, 35, 41, 45, 50–53, 55, 62–6, 71–2, 78, 84, 86–9, 90–91, 116, 139–40, 144–5, 162 attitude of trust, x, 80–85, 103, 109, 111, 115, 117, 141 attitude towards a soul, 93–6, 98–103, 105–6, 108 background, explantory, 28, 53, 75 Baier, Annette ix–x, 43–52, 54–62, 64–72, 76–82, 89–90, 111–16, 140–41, 143–6, 157, 159, 162 belief, ix, 14, 16, 24, 26, 29–34, 36–7, 39–40, 42, 49, 64, 79, 83–4, 86, 94–100, 107, 115–16, 121, 125, 134–40, 143–4, 157, 161 believers, x, 24, 36, 41, 57, 140, 143, 147, 156 believing, 40–41, 52, 82, 86, 117, 125, 127–8 breach of trust, 20, 48, 56, 61, 64, 72, 96, 104–6, 113–14, 119 Camus, Albert, xi, 146–63 cheating, 14–15, 24, 30, 33, 35, 74, 125 Christianity, 119, 123–4, 134, 143, 146–7, 150, 156 Christians, 33, 138, 143–4, 146–8, 150 citizens, ix, 2–3, 8–9, 13, 21, 25–6 climate of trust, 43–4, 46, 144–5 micro-climate, 145 commitment, 52, 73, 97, 107, 134, 137, 139, 151 common understanding, 104, 107–8 commonality, 106, 124, 156
commonwealth, ix, 3, 5, 8–10, 12–14, 18–20, 25, 32, 125 communication, 72–3 conscious trust, x, 61, 65 constitutive, trust as, 56–7, 61, 64 contract, 2–3, 5, 9–11, 14, 17, 20, 43–4, 46, 49, 51–8, 60, 66–7, 70, 78–9, 112–14, 139 contract model of trust, ix, 43–4, 46, 49, 58, 66–7, 70, 78–9, 112 cooperation, x, 44, 65–6, 69, 71, 76–7, 79, 81, 144, 159 courage, 1, 3, 29–31, 43, 52, 59, 100, 102, 130, 132, 137, 154, 156, 159, 161 covenant, ix, 1–2, 4, 8–11, 13–26, 43, 72, 125, 158 Dallmayr, Fred R., 157–8 decision, x, 38, 47, 57, 63–4, 68, 77, 82, 126–7, 133–4, 136, 140, 145, 151, 155 despair, 124, 126, 130–32, 134, 156, 159, 162 disobedience, 41 distrust, x, 24, 47, 53, 56, 59–61, 71, 77–8, 81, 83, 87–91, 93, 96, 102–3, 108, 117, 121, 145 divine command. See divine law divine law, 17, 26, 33, 35–6, 97 doubt, x, 18, 36, 38–9, 53, 55, 58–9, 61–2, 64–6, 71, 86, 91–2, 94, 99, 105, 108, 138, 149, 163 Durfee, Harold A., 154–9, 161, 163 duty, 17, 26, 28, 34, 38, 113, 121, 138 Edelman, John, 13, 16–19, 21, 33, 42 education, 4–5, 10–11, 13, 23, 80, 158–9 empty concept, trust as, x, 52, 55, 79, 82, 86, 145 entrusting, 1, 47, 50, 56, 58, 61, 63, 66
Trusting Others, Trusting God
equality, 44, 46, 65–8, 124, 128, 162 eternity, 41, 124, 130–31, 133 Euthyphro, 33–4 evidence, x, 27–9, 53, 88, 90, 92, 121–2, 126, 130, 133, 136, 140, 153, 161 evil, 11–13, 15, 20–21, 23–5, 28, 33–4, 38, 65, 106, 108, 115, 125, 127, 130, 138, 146, 154, 157, 159–60 evolution, trust and, 71 evolutionary advantage, trust as, 69
Hobbes, Thomas, ix, 1–27, 31–2, 35, 37, 41–3, 67, 69, 72, 74–5, 79, 125, 145–6, 157–8, 163 Holland, R. F., 74–7, 79–80 Hollis, Martin, 3, 15, 17–19, 21 hope, 8, 12, 26, 33, 40, 52, 69, 111–12, 119–20, 124, 130–35, 137, 141, 144, 146, 153, 159 human nature, 3, 4, 10, 12, 23, 43–4, 68, 71, 74, 97, 106, 155, 157–8, 162
faith, ix, xi, 14, 24, 26, 37, 40–41, 56, 70, 111–18, 125–8, 130–31, 134, 136–7, 140–41, 143–4, 150–51, 153, 162–3 fear, ix, 3, 7–10, 12–15, 17–18, 24, 26–8, 32, 35–6, 39–40, 45, 48, 52, 57, 64, 82–4, 92, 112, 114, 116–17, 127–9, 131–2, 135–6, 141, 144, 146, 158–9 felicity, 3, 6, 8, 10, 16–17, 25–6 fellowship, 106, 113–14, 162 fidelity, 40, 56, 69–70 first-person perspective, 62 Foot, Phillipa, ix, 23–4, 26–34, 37, 42 form of life, 73, 86, 90 frame of reference, x, 135–40, 143, 148, 151 friendship, xi, 1, 6–7, 14, 20, 46, 52–4, 56–60, 62, 66, 69–70, 79, 82–3, 90–92, 94, 100, 102, 106, 108, 111, 117–19
infant trust, trust as infantile, x, 28, 47–8, 50, 78, 87–8, 111–13, 115, 122, 134, 136, 140, 143 injustice, 8–9, 13, 15, 20–21, 23, 27, 29–32, 107, 147, 155, 157 innate trust, 47, 78, 111 innocence, 54, 62–3, 93 instrumental trust, ix, 3, 6, 13–14, 17–18, 20–21, 23, 25–6, 49–50, 58, 61, 75, 80, 89, 114, 139, 145 instrumentalism, ix, 44–5, 49, 51, 77–9, 112, 124 integrity, 15, 35–7, 39–40, 42, 79, 137–8 irrational trust, x, 15, 19, 40, 89, 112–13, 115–18, 122, 125, 133, 139, 143, 152, 154–5, 157–8, 160,
Gaita, Raimond, 103–9, 159 Geach, Peter, ix, xi, 23–4, 32–42 Glaucon, 15, 21, 138 Good Samaritan, 96–9, 101–3, 122 good will, ix, 37, 40, 45, 47–8, 57–8, 71, 78, 85, 113 goodness, 17, 24–6, 28, 74, 76, 80, 89–90, 92, 111–12, 114–16, 126–7, 129, 139 Gorgias, 20–21, 74 government, 4, 8–9, 158 happiness, 6, 8, 15, 32, 58, 84, 91, 117, 156 Hertzberg, Lars, x, 50–51, 57, 80–82, 93, 96, 100, 102, 109, 111–18, 126, 141 Hirschfield, Brad, 143, 146, 163
judgment, x, 3, 11–13, 23, 25–6, 29, 31–3, 51, 57, 59, 69, 72, 74, 78–9, 81–2, 84, 86–91, 111–13, 116, 118–22, 126, 130, 134, 136–40, 145, 147, 149 justice, 8–9, 11, 13, 15–17, 20–21, 23, 26–7, 29–33, 61, 67–8, 71, 90, 106–8, 114, 118, 146–7, 155, 157–9, 162 Kaddish for a Child Not Born, 159, 161, 163 Kant, Immanuel, 18–19, 34, 37–8 Kertész, Imre, 159, 160–61, 163 Kierkegaard, Soren, x, 32, 40–41, 111, 113, 117–35, 137, 140–41, 143, 150–53, 156, 162–3 Lagerspetz, Olli, ix–x, 51–6, 58–65, 79–80, 93, 96, 109
Index language, ix–x, 6, 13, 48–9, 51–6, 58, 61, 63–7, 69–74, 77–9, 81, 83, 87, 89, 92–3, 114–15, 125, 135–6, 139, 143, 145, 159 law, 2–3, 8–13, 16–17, 20–21, 23, 25–6, 32–7, 39, 42, 54, 67–9, 71–2, 96–7, 102, 145–6, 158 Leviathan, ix, 1–2, 4, 7–8, 10, 13, 16, 19–21, 23, 26, 42, 158 limit case, 47, 89–90 Locke, John, 44, 47, 70, 76 Loose, John, 147, 163 love, x, xi, 1–2, 9, 35–7, 39, 41, 47–8, 50, 52, 61, 95, 97–8, 100, 104, 111, 113, 115, 118–37, 140–41, 144–5, 149, 156–7, 162 lover, 122, 123, 125, 127–34, 137 lying, 30, 33–5, 74 MacPherson, C. B., 7, 21, 42 mature trust, x, 47, 49, 60, 71, 78, 112–13, 118, 136 meaning, xi, 11, 28, 40–41, 47, 53, 55, 57–8, 62, 64, 73, 76, 82, 84–5, 92–3, 97, 131, 134–5, 137, 140, 151–2, 154, 157–8 mental state, 51–2, 54–5, 79 mistrust, x, 121–2, 125–8, 130 moral community, 72, 74 mystery, 33, 36, 39, 74–6, 80, 137 natural law, 2, 10–12, 14, 16, 20, 23, 25, 67–8, 71–2 laws of nature, 9–10, 13, 145, 158 natural rights, 2, 8–9, 11–12 natural virtue, x, 44, 68–9, 71 naturalism, 26–7 neighbor, x, 56, 96–8, 101, 115, 118–24, 126–8, 132–3, 135–6, 140, 162 neighbour, 92, 94, 96–9, 102–3, 119, 121–4, 137 normative trust, ix, 18–20, 25, 47, 60, 93 obedience, ix, 18–20, 25, 47, 60, 93 obligation, 2, 8–9, 14, 16–20, 25, 34, 49, 69, 122, 158 Of Mice and Men, 57, 80, 84, 109
pathological, trust as, 43, 65 patience, 40–41, 52 peace, ix, 2, 5, 7–11, 14, 16, 23, 43, 58, 79, 84, 125, 145, 158 Phillips, D. Z., xi, 31–2, 36–7, 40, 42, 82–3, 91–2, 99–103, 106–9, 117–19, 124, 134–7, 139, 141, 163 picking and choosing, 147–9, 163 Plato, 15, 20–21, 33, 44, 74, 76 power, ix, 2, 4, 6–9, 11, 14–17, 21, 24–6, 31–3, 35–6, 39–40, 43–4, 46, 48, 58–60, 62, 65–9, 71, 76–7, 79, 85, 102, 108, 111–12, 115, 128, 144–6, 153–4, 157–8, 161 predictive trust, ix, 3, 18–20, 25 pride, 11, 27–8, 30, 35, 50, 127, 138, 146 primitive reactions, 81–2, 86, 95, 99–101 primitive trust, 78, 81, 89–90, 94 prior to judgment, trust as, x, 57, 79, 81, 86–8, 90, 111–13, 120, 134, 136, 140 profit, profitability, 21, 24, 27, 30–32, 37–9, 45 promise, promising, ix, 9, 14–15, 17, 19–21, 32, 47–8, 56, 58, 69, 71, 116–17, 125, 150, 156 prudence, ix, xi, 4, 15, 17, 19, 25, 29–31, 39–41, 64–5, 121–2, 125, 130, 145, 158 punishment, ix, 2–3,14–15, 19, 23–6, 32–3, 39–41, 120 rational trust, 3, 65, 112 rationality, 3, 4, 14–15, 18, 27, 34, 41, 59, 72, 113, 115–16, 118, 120, 126, 139–40, 150–51, 153, 158, 160–61 reason, ix, xi, 2–6, 8–19, 21, 23–4, 26–7, 29–33, 35, 37, 44–6, 48, 50–51, 53, 60–61, 66, 78, 89–90, 92, 95, 106, 111–12, 115, 118, 125–7, 136, 147–59, 162 rebellion, xi, 150, 154–7, 159, 161–3 reflective trust, x, 62–3 reliance, ix, x, 45, 48, 50–51, 57–9, 66, 81, 85–91, 112–13, 118, 125–6, 145 religious concepts, ix, 123, 130, 132–3, 135–6, 139–40
Trusting Others, Trusting God
religious trust, x, 23, 26, 32, 111–15, 117–22, 124–30, 132, 134, 137, 139–41, 143, 151, 153 Republic, 15, 21, 27 revelation, 33–6, 126, 149 Rhees, Rush, 39–41, 119–20, 124, 141, 147–9, 169 rights, xi, 2, 8–9, 11–12, 67, 76, 113, 125, 145, 155, 158–89 ring of Gyges, 15, 65 risk, x, 30, 43–4, 46–7, 49–50, 56–7, 59–61, 64, 66, 69, 77–9, 90, 122, 144, 155, 160 Sarot, Marcel, 20, 22, 83, 109, 113–16, 119, 141 security, 3, 8, 14, 16, 43, 45, 139, 144–6, 162 self-conscious trust, 47, 61–2 self-interest, ix, xi, 3, 6, 8, 10, 13–14, 16–17, 19, 39–40, 49, 146, 158, 162 self-preservation, 10–11, 158 sin, sinner, 24, 26, 33, 36, 39, 119–20, 124, 141, 148, 151 slavery, 101, 104, 106–8 social norms, 19, 25, 92 Socrates, 15, 17, 32, 34, 74, 107 solidarity, 146, 156, 158 soul, 42, 57, 93–4, 96, 98–103, 105–8, 120, 124, 159 soul-blindness, 105, 107, 159 sovereign, ix, 2–3, 8–9, 11, 14, 16–18, 25–6, 43, 157–8 speech, 4–5, 63, 70, 76–7, 130 state of nature, 7–9, 11–13, 16–17, 23, 26, 72, 157 Steinbeck, John, 57, 80, 84–5, 109 subtlety, 23, 46–7, 49, 52, 71, 75, 79
superannuated, trust as, 78, 81, 88 supernatural virtue, 67–8, 160 suspicion, ix, 43–4, 47, 50, 53, 55, 59, 62, 65–6, 71, 78–9, 81, 93, 98–9, 101, 112–14, 122, 155 Swift, Jonathan, 98, 100, 107 target of trust, 83, 113–14 teaching, 70, 77–8, 87–8, 92, 105, 154 truthfulness, 73–6, 92, 96 truth-telling, x, 71–4, 79–80 unconditional trust, 88, 115, 123, 162 unconscious trust, 47, 62, 64–5 unknown, the, 150–52, 156 unreflective trust, x, 62–3, 102, 108, 117, 123 utility, ix, 1, 3–6, 13, 17–18, 21, 23, 26–7, 30–34, 37, 41, 145, 162 virtue, x, 6, 17, 27–31, 34, 42, 44, 66–9, 71, 74–5, 77–8, 111–12, 144–6, 154, 160–62 vulnerability, 7, 43, 45, 48, 55–9, 65–6, 79, 106, 108, 111–12, 115, 144–5 Weil, Simone, 38, 40, 63, 66–8, 80, 103, 105–6, 160 Winch, Peter, x, 11–13, 21–2, 37–42, 63, 67–8, 71–6, 79–80, 93–104, 106–7, 109, 137–9, 141, 159 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, x, 41, 51, 62–3, 72–3, 76–7, 80, 86–7, 91–5, 97–106, 109, 113, 117, 134–6, 140–41, 143, 147–8 women and trust, 11, 43, 46, 49, 162 worldly trust 126, 141 worship 25–6, 32, 35, 37, 39–40, 147, 149, 152, 156